Judge Will Allow Texas Abortion-Ultrasound Law Take Effect

State   Steven Ertelt   Feb 6, 2012   |   6:01PM    Austin, TX

In another legal victory for pro-life advocates in Texas, a federal judge says he has no choice but to allow a law allowing women to see an ultrasound of their unborn baby before an abortion take effect.

In January, a federal appeals court upheld the pro-life law approved during the recent 82nd Texas Legislative Session. The measure was passed and signed into law by Governor Rick Perry and the historic law protects a pregnant woman’s right to view her unborn child and hear the heartbeat of that child before making a decision about an abortion.

On August 30, federal district court Judge Sam Sparks enjoined crucial parts of this law – further jeopardizing the health of women undergoing abortions—just two days before the law was to go into effect. The injunction was sought by the New York based Center for Reproductive Rights, an abortion advocacy group that files lawsuit against pro-life legislation.

Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott, who is pro-life, quickly filed an appeal on the same day that the lower court released the injunction with the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals in New Orleans. A three-judge panel heard arguments to determine whether to lift the injunction and it ruled the state can enforce the law and said Judge Sparks was wrong to rule that abortion practitioners would likely win their case in court.

Today, Judge Sparks declined to stop the law from going into effect and wrote in his decision, according to the Houston Chronicle, “There can be little doubt that (the law) is an attempt by the Texas Legislature to discourage women from exercising their constitutional rights by making it more difficult for caring and competent physicians to perform abortions.”

“It appears the (three judge appellate court panel) has effectively eviscerated the protections of the First Amendment in the abortion context,” and “in no other medical context does the government go so far in telling doctors what they must, and must not, do,” Sparks added in his ruling.

Nancy Northup, president and CEO of the Center for Reproductive Rights, the pro-abortion law firm that took it to court, told the newspaper, “It is a terrible injustice that Judge Sparks could not rule in favor of protecting the constitutional rights of Texas doctors because of the Fifth Circuit panel’s decision. We urge the full Fifth Circuit to consider Judge Sparks’ sound legal analysis when reviewing our request for a new hearing.”

After the appeals court ruled in favor of the law, Gov. Rick Perry, who signed the bill into law, praised the court’s decision.

“Today’s ruling is a victory for all who stand in defense of life. Every life lost to abortion is a tragedy, and 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-ending decision,” Perry said in a statement.

Texas Right to Life Director Elizabeth Graham and Legislative Director John Seago attended the hearing and support the law.

“Texas Right to Life and Senator Patrick worked alongside each other for five years on the Sonogram Bill to protect a woman’s right to informed consent before an abortion.  In his ruling, Judge Sparks accuses both the plaintiffs and defendants of waging an ideological war in his court room, yet he has done exactly that by enjoining the main points of the Sonogram Law,” she said. “The Sonogram Law is a common sense piece of legislation sponsored by Senator Patrick and Representative Sid Miller to ensure that women receive all the medical facts prior to making a life-changing decision to abort an unborn child.  To delay this law taking effect is to further jeopardize the health of women entering abortion clinics.”

“Planned Parenthood already does sonograms before abortions. Yet they almost always refuse to let women see the images — even when the desperate mothers ask to see them,” she said. “For every abortion, Planned Parenthood rakes in between $350 and $600. A sonogram transforms a confused customer into a mother willing to rise off the table, walk out of the abortion mill, and choose Life. The last option Planned Parenthood wants is for a frightened girl to take time, to even think, to have a chance to change her mind.”

“Our Sonogram Law is the best chance we’ve had in decades to take pregnant girls right out of Planned Parenthood and shut down their filthy, evil business. And Planned Parenthood knows this — they know the threat of the truth, of women looking through the window to the womb,” Graham said.

As LifeNews reported,U.S. District Judge Sam Sparks  issued an injunction in advance of the September 1 date the law was supposed to go into effect.

He ruled in a two-page order that parts of the state’s new sonogram law are unconstitutional and prevented Texas officials from issuing any fines or penalties against abortion practitioners who do not follow the law while the lawsuit continues. He claimed Texas has no right to tell abortion practitioners they should allow women a chance to see an ultrasound of an abortion — even though one is typically done to determine the age of the baby at the time of the abortion. Judge Sparks also claimed the law is supposedly vague and contradictory and makes it so abortion practitioners who think they are following the law could be running afoul of it.

“Governor Perry was pleased to sign this important legislation, which bolsters our efforts to protect life by ensuring Texans are fully informed when considering such an important decision,” said Katherine Cesinger, a spokeswoman for the governor.

The legislation allows women to see the ultrasound 24 hours before the abortion and abortion centers typically do ultrasounds to estimate the age of the baby before the abortion but they don’t normally allow women a chance to see or explain to them in detail the development of their unborn child. When used in pregnancy centers offering abortion alternatives, approximately 80 percent of women change their mind about having an abortion.