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Judge Rules Against Texas Sonogram Law (1720)

Gov. Perry says decision is a 'great disappointment.'

09/01/2011 Comments (1)
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AUSTIN (EWTN News) — Texas Gov. Rick Perry has expressed disappointment with a federal judge’s Aug. 30 ruling that blocked the state from enforcing an abortion sonogram law until a court rules on a legal challenge to it.

“Every life lost to abortion is a tragedy, and today’s ruling is a great disappointment to all Texans who stand in defense of life,” the governor said. “This important sonogram legislation ensures that every Texas woman seeking an abortion has all the facts about the life she is carrying and understands the devastating impact of such a life-changing decision.”

The law requires doctors to conduct a sonogram on a woman seeking an abortion at least 24 hours before the procedure. The doctor must provide the woman with the opportunity to see the results and to hear the fetal heartbeat. The doctor must also describe what the sonogram shows, except in cases of incest, rape or fetal abnormality.

U.S. District Judge Sam Sparks said that the law violates the free-speech rights of doctors and patients by compelling state-ordered speech. He ruled that the state cannot impose penalties against doctors who don’t fulfill its requirements.

“The act’s onerous requirements will surely dissuade or prevent many competent doctors from performing abortions, making it significantly more difficult for pregnant women to obtain abortions,” he said in an Aug. 30 temporary injunction delivered in Austin.

The judge said the bill would force pregnant women to receive medical treatment from “less-skilled” providers and this seems to be at odds with the bill’s stated purpose of protecting the physical and psychological health of pregnant women.

The New York-based Center for Reproductive Rights filed a class-action lawsuit against the law on behalf of Texas Medical Providers Performing Abortion Services, which the center says is led by a San Antonio group of obstetricians and gynecologists.

Nancy Northrup, the center’s president and CEO, described the ruling as “a huge victory for women in Texas and a clear signal to the state Legislature that it went too far when it passed this law.”

“Politicians have no business telling doctors how to practice medicine or meddling in women’s private medical decisions,” she said.

State Sen. Dan Patrick, R-Houston, a major backer of the law, said he wasn’t surprised by the decision. However, he expressed confidence that the law’s constitutionality will be upheld.

“It is clear, to me, from the inflammatory language in the order, that Judge Sparks was predisposed to this decision,” he said, according to the Houston Chronicle. “It is disappointing that a group from out-of-state that does not value life can successfully interfere with Texas’ public policy.”

The law would have punished doctors who violate it with a $10,000 fine and automatic loss of medical license.

Judge Sparks said that it was hard to avoid concluding that the legislature either wants to “permanently brand women” who get abortions or views the certifications as “potential evidence to be used against physicians and women.”

The Texas Catholic Conference supported the legislation as a “gradualistic approach” to reduce abortion that would inform mothers about the risks and complications associated with the procedure.

Perry signed the bill into law in May before he announced his candidacy for the Republican nomination for president. He classified the bill as “emergency legislation.”

Over this past weekend, Perry met with about 200 influential Christian conservative leaders in Texas. According to U.S. News and World Report, he pledged to promote pro-life policies, oppose “gay marriage” and pick cabinet officials and a vice president who share his values.

Filed under governor perry, pro-life, sonogram law, texas