Texas Abortion-Ultrasound Law Blocked While Lawsuit Continues

State   |   Steven Ertelt   |   Sep 29, 2011   |   3:23PM   |   Austin, TX

The U.S. Supreme Court has ruled that Texas can’t enforce a pro-life law allowing women a chance to see an ultrasound before an abortion while the lawsuit abortion backers filed against it continues in court.

U.S. District Judge Sam Sparks ordered the main provisions of the law to be blocked while the lawsuit continued, on Wednesday the U.S. Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals refused to allow the law to go into effect pending a ruling in the case, and, today, Supreme Court  Justice Antonin Scalia, acting on behalf of the entire Supreme Court, refused to lift the injunction.

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.

The injunction will stay in place until Judge Sparks rules on the merits of the case the pro-abortion Center for Reproductive Rights, based in New York, brought against the bill on behalf of its Texas-based clients.

“The district court’s decision to block portions of this new law, which is intrusive and unconstitutional, was well-supported.  There is no basis for the state’s attempts to short-circuit the legal process by trying to nullify the court’s decision on an emergency basis,” said Julie Rikelman, senior staff attorney with the pro-abortion law firm.

The state attorney general wanted the injunction lifted and both sides are expected to appeal the decision Judge Sparks issues on the law itself.

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.

Texas Right to Life, one of the pro-life groups that is strongly supporting the law, condemned Sparks’ initial decision for the injunction.

“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 …  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.”

Graham says arguments from abortion advocates that the law is an inconvenience for women don’t make sense.

“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.