On Friday, January 20th, a federal judge in Austin held what should be the final hearing on our new Sonogram Law. The law, passed in the 2011 82nd Legislative Session, requires abortionists to show women a sonogram before an abortion, describe the image on the screen, and make the unborn child's heartbeat audible for the mother to hear.
During the hearing, opposing counsel from the Center for Reproductive Rights asked Judge Sam Sparks to release another ruling to render the law unconstitutional, alleging once again that the law violates abortionists' First Amendment rights by forcing them to disclose “irrelevant” medical information to their abortion patients, as well as alleging that the law is too vague for abortionists to follow.
The 5th Circuit Court, however, addressed those arguments last week and found the CRR’s claims baseless. The three-judge panel of the 5th Circuit wrote: “[T]he required disclosures of a sonogram, the fetal heartbeat, and their medical descriptions are the epitome of truthful, non-misleading information.”
Sparks was visibly frustrated with the higher courts’ ruling, lamenting to the plaintiffs, “I still want you to tell me what you would like me to do. The higher court has already ordered that the law can be enforced, perhaps just to keep me from taking any further action.”
Elizabeth Graham, Director of Texas Right to Life, calls the whole lawsuit politically-motivated: “The Sonogram Law represents an informational measure for women, and we are infuriated that the plaintiffs are allowing their fatal ideology to jeopardize the health and safety of women.”
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 Texas legislators do not want abortion to be held to a lower standard than other surgical procedures. Texas Right to Life played a key role in shaping, promoting, and passing House Bill 15.
Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott has been actively defending the Sonogram Law at each step of the lawsuit. Abbott has already indicated plans to appeal if Judge Sparks releases another unfavorable ruling. However, Judge Sparks closed the short hearing stating, “Thank you for arguments, I will examine your filings and see if there is anything I can rule on.”