Texas’ Ultrasound-Abortion Law to Get Appeals Court Battle

State   |   Steven Ertelt   |   Sep 7, 2011   |   5:07PM   |   Austin, TX

A judge’s ruling striking down significant portions of a pro-life law allowing women a chance to see an ultrasound of their unborn child prior to an abortion is getting strong support from Texas officials who are appealing the decision.

Texas Right to Life, one of the pro-life groups that is strongly supporting the law, is out today with an update about its status. The pro-life organization says the decision to strike key parts of the law adversely affects women’s health.

“During the recent 82nd Texas Legislative Session, the Sonogram Bill (House Bill 15) was passed and signed into law by Governor Rick Perry.  This historic law protects a pregnant woman’s right to view her unborn child and hear the heartbeat of that child before finalizing her decision to continue or terminate her pregnancy,” the group said. “Tragically on Tuesday, August 30th, 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 think-tank. This delay will keep core sections of the law from protecting women until the suit is concluded in his court.”

However, TRL says Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott, who is pro-life, “is skillfully defending the law on behalf of the state of Texas; he quickly filed an appeal on the same day that the lower court released the injunction.”

The sonogram law will now follow two legal paths, Texas Right to Life explains.

“Judge Sparks will decide the outcome of the lawsuit filed to protest the entire the Sonogram Law,” the group said. “However, the question of whether the law can be enforced during this consideration by Judge Sparks’ will be settled in the higher 5th Circuit Court of Appeals in New Orleans. If the 5th Circuit Court rules favorably with the state of Texas and Attorney General Abbott—meaning the law takes effect while the constitutionality is examined, Judge Sparks must comply with 5th Circuit’s decision to enforce compliance.”

Elizabeth Graham, the executive director of the pro-life organization, talked more about how the decision hurts women.

“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.”

As LifeNews reported,U.S. District Judge Sam Sparks  issued an injunction in advance of the September 1 date the law is 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.

Thanks to Governor Rick Perry, legislation that will allow women who are considering an abortion to see an ultrasound of their unborn child beforehand was made a priority during the most recent legislative session.

“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.