According to the Houston Chronicle, the controversial Texas sonogram abortion law went into effect Monday. U.S. District Judge Sam Sparks indicated he had no choice but to uphold the law thanks to an appeals court decision.
A three-judge panel of the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals forced the ruling when it overturned Judge Sparks' temporary injunction against enforcing the law.
What is the Texas abortion sonogram law?
The law, HB 15, requires a physician performing an abortion to provide the woman who is seeking to terminate her pregnancy information about the possible medical consequences of the procedure, information on alternatives to having an abortion, as well as a sonogram of the fetus and an audio recording of the fetal heartbeat. There are exceptions if the pregnancy is the result of rape or incest, the woman is a minor or if the fetus is suffering from an irreversible medical condition. Unless the woman lives more than 100 miles from a facility providing an abortion, the woman must wait for 24 hours after viewing the sonogram.
What was Judge Sparks' position on the sonogram law?
The Huffington Post reported in August, that Judge Sparks upheld the requirement to perform the sonograms but struck down the provision that required doctors to describe the images to women and required women to see the images. He ruled this violated the free speech rights of both doctors and patients. Sparks was troubled by the provision that required woman who were seeking exemptions for rape or incest to sign statements to that effect. He also struck down certain enforcement provisions of the law. Sparks blocked enforcement of the law pending a review of the appeals court.
What did the three-judge panel of the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals say?
The panel ruled Jan. 10 the sonogram rule did not violate Constitutional protections, according to the Dallas Morning News. Contrary to Judge Sparks' ruling, the panel stated the law only required doctors give truthful information to women seeking abortions, and thus did not compel what it termed "ideological speech." In a concurring opinion, Appeals Court Judge Patrick Higginbothan stated the law adhered to the state's right to try to persuade citizens to choose a course it prefers and the prohibition of the state from forcing a citizen from adopting the state's views as his own involuntarily. He cautioned though that the state could not suppress access to abortions through the avenue of informed consent.
Texas resident Mark Whittington writes about state issues for the Yahoo! Contributor Network.
- 5th Circuit Court of Appeals