Court Rules Texas Ultrasound Law Can be Enforced Now

State   |   Steven Ertelt   |   Jan 13, 2012   |   6:25PM   |   Austin, TX

A federal appeals court has issued a second ruling related to a Texas law allowing women a chance to see an ultrasound of their unborn child before having an abortion — saying the law can be enforced now.

This second decision follows up on one issued earlier this week overturning the injunction a district judge put in place, and both ruling sallow the state to hold abortion facilities accountable if they fail to let women see an ultrasound of their baby.

“Starting today, the State of Texas has the legal green light to disregard the block placed on the law by anti-Life Judge Sparks,” Texas Right to Life told LifeNews Friday afternoon. “The State of Texas also has the complete right to inform all licensed physicians in Texas of the new legal requirement to perform and display a Sonogram image for each mother to see before committing an elective abortion.  The abortionist must also describe the sonogram image, and play the audio of the fetal heartbeat for the mother to hear.”

“The court granted the State’s motion to issue the mandate forthwith, meaning that the sonogram law is in force, effective immediately, without any further motions or orders from either the lower federal court or the Court of Appeals,” Texas Right to Life said. “This order is a triumph for women and the unborn.  The sonogram law was passed overwhelmingly by the 82nd Legislature, because Texan women deserve to receive accurate medical information from all physicians.  When women are given all the pertinent medical information they need to make a truly informed decision regarding their pregnancies, they will choose Life.”

A three judge panel of the court agreed to a request from the Texas attorney general’s office to cut short the standard three-week waiting period between a ruling and its implementation. The Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals’ order makes it so abortion businesses do not have the opportunity until Tuesday to appeal the court’s decision earlier in the week.

Now, according to an AP report, the Texas Department of State Health Services can issues rules to abortion clinics and abortion practitioners in how they must follow the law and can prosecute any who do not follow it.

“Given today’s order we are moving forward with legal guidance from the attorney general’s office,” said Carrie Williams, an agency spokeswoman, according to AP. “We’re working toward full implementation and we are moving quickly to comply with the order. We’ve been preparing for this since the legislation passed during the last session.”

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 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.

Last Tuesday, a federal three-judge panel heard arguments to determine whether to lift the injunction. The panel was critical of the grounds for the injunction and Jonathan Mitchell, Solicitor General, argued for the law before the panel.  Mitchell explained that the level of scrutiny and the arguments used to rule the law as unconstitutional — and thus block the law from going into effect — were misapplied and needed to be overturned.

Chief Judge Edith Jones, of the three-judge panel, asked pro-abortion attorneys how medical sonogram imaging, and a factual description of that image could be viewed as radical or against the health of women.

Republican presidential candidate 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.

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.