The Silent Scream is an anti-abortion film released in 1984 by American Portrait Films, then based in Brunswick, Ohio. The film was created and narrated by Bernard Nathanson, an obstetrician and gynecologist from New York, and it was produced by Crusade for Life, an evangelical anti-abortion organization. In the video, Nathanson narrates ultrasound footage of an abortion of a twelve-week-old fetus, claiming that the fetus opened its mouth in what Nathanson calls a silent scream during the procedure. As a result of Nathanson's anti-abortion stance in the film, The Silent Scream contributed to the abortion debate in the 1980s.
In Stuart v. Camnitz, the United States Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit affirmed the decision of a North Carolina District Court that declared a controversial ultrasound mandate for abortions unconstitutional in 2014. The ultrasound mandate was a part of the Woman’s Right to Know Act introduced in North Carolina in 2011, which placed several restrictions on abortion care providers in the state. If enforced, the ultrasound mandate would have required physicians to perform an ultrasound on every patient before an abortion and simultaneously describe the resulting image of the fetus regardless of whether the woman wanted to hear the description. The District Court ruled the mandate an unconstitutional violation of physicians’ free speech rights. The Fourth Circuit Court’s decision to affirm the District Court’s ruling established that the state could not compel healthcare providers to recite what the court called state ideology to patients against their medical judgment, which broke with precedent set by prior rulings by the Fifth and Eighth Circuit Courts in similar cases.
Bernard Nathanson was an obstetrician and gynecologist in New York City, New York, who argued for, and later against, women's rights to abortion. Between 1970 and 1979, Nathanson oversaw at least 75,000 abortions, 5,000 of which he performed himself, earning him the nickname of abortion king. However, his views regarding abortion shifted in 1973, after he watched an abortion using ultrasound imaging technology. Afterwards, Nathanson began to oppose women's rights to abortion, and he published the anti-abortion book Aborting America and produced the film Silent Scream.