On Friday February 10, the federal Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals in New Orleans unanimously denied a request by opponents of the Texas Sonogram Law to reconsider the decision of a three-judge panel on that court several weeks ago to completely uphold the law’s constitutionality.
Meanwhile the lower court in Austin, which had initially enjoined enforcement of key provisions, entirely dismissed the lawsuit brought last summer by the New York-based Center for Reproductive Rights.
On February 6 the Texas Department of State Health Services issued a issued a letter to all abortion facilities declaring its intent to completely enforce the law immediately. The letter makes it clear that abortion providers must comply with all aspects of the law.
The Sonogram Law was authored by Texas State Rep. Sid Miller (R-Stephenville) and sponsored by State Sen. Dan Patrick (R-Houston). Pro-life Gov. Rick Perry signed it into law in May. The law gives women the right to see the sonogram image of their unborn child and to hear the child’s heartbeat, if they wish. Several women testified in support of the law during committee hearings that they had been denied the opportunity to see the sonogram at Texas abortion facilities, including at Planned Parenthood.
Among the strongest aspects of the bill is a provision requiring the physician who is to perform the abortion to meet, in person, with the woman at least 24 hours before the abortion can be performed to explain the medical risks and the alternatives to abortion. That provision was authored by State Rep. Bill Callegari (R-Houston) and supported by Rep. Miller and Sen. Patrick as well as most pro-life organizations in the state.
Abby Johnson, the the former director of a Planned Parenthood abortion facility in Texas, said the provision will “devastate” the abortion industry in Texas. For years doctors employed by abortion facilities in Texas have been providing state-mandated informed consent information via recorded messages over the phone or by way of mass conference phone calls. Those practices are now illegal under the Texas Sonogram law, with penalties including a $10,000 fine and possible loss of a medical license.
In November, Texas Alliance for Life filed a scholarly amicus curiae (friend-of-the-court) brief to defend the sonogram law. The brief quotes Planned Parenthood v. Casey, a 1992 U.S. Supreme Court opinion upholding a Pennsylvania informed consent law:
In attempting to ensure that a woman apprehend the full consequences of her decision, the State furthers the legitimate purpose of reducing the risk that a woman may elect an abortion, only to discover later, with devastating psychological consequences, that her decision was not fully informed.
Under U.S. Supreme Court precedent, states may require a physician to provide a pregnant women considering abortion with truthful, nonmisleading information that might be relevant to her decision to undergo the procedure. That is all the State of Texas requires in its Sonogram Law.
LifeNews Note: Joe Pojman is the executive director of Texas Alliance for Life.