Next steps for Texas Sonogram Law
by Texas Right to LifeThursday, January 12, 2012
On January 10, a federal three-judge panel ruled that Texas can now enforce a law requiring abortionists to conduct and show women a pre-abortion sonogram while the constitutionality of the law is still being examined in a lower Austin District court.
The panel said that the Center for Reproductive Rights, which is fighting the law, failed to demonstrate the unconstitutionality of the law and ordered that the law immediately go into effect.
Abortionists must now conduct and show every woman a sonogram before her abortion, pointing out her child’s arms, legs, and head, as well as make the child’s heartbeat audible for the mother to hear.
Although the law is now enforceable, the battle is not over. The ruling from the 5th Circuit Court lifted the preliminary injunction on the law, and the three-judge panel also addressed other claims in the larger lawsuit. In a way, the three-judge panel was signaling to the Austin judge, liberal abortion-rights Judge Sam Sparks, that the plaintiffs’ claims were unfounded.
The law has been wrapped up in court battles ever since Governor Perry signed it into law last summer. The Center for Reproductive Rights filed a class-action lawsuit on behalf of abortion providers across Texas, alleging that the sonogram law violates the abortionists’ First Amendment Rights by forcing them to disclose “irrelevant” information. These plaintiffs also claimed that parts of the law are vague.
Sparks has set a hearing in which to consider the constitutionality of the sonogram law on January 20, which is why the timing of this decision by the 5th Circuit Court was perfect. Judge Sparks, although temperamental and extremely independent, would be overstepping his bench if he were to contradict the findings of the three-judge panel in the January 20 hearing.
If Sparks strikes down the law, Texas Attorney General Gregg Abbott is expected to appeal, and the case will again move to the same panel of judges in the United States 5th Circuit Court of Appeals. Victory is within our grasp, but some procedural hurdles and legal maneuvers could cause further delays.
Once the court process is finished, Texas Right to Life will ensure that the rules and protocols for implementing the sonogram law adhere rigorously to the intent of the overwhelmingly Pro-Life Texas Legislature.
Texas Right to Life played a key role in shaping, promoting, and passing House Bill 15. Texas Right to Life often successfully stood virtually alone in demanding that proposed weakening loopholes of the bill be removed to pass the strongest sonogram law in the nation.
The 82nd Legislature overwhelmingly passed the sonogram law, House Bill 15, so that women could make fully-informed decisions about their pregnancies. Governmental bodies regulate informed consent frequently and myriad other medical procedures, and Texas legislators do not want abortion to be held to a lower standard than other surgical procedures.
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