Women Now Required to Have a Sonogram Before an Abortion

A three-judge panel reversed a lower court's injunction against the controversial "sonogram law," which mandates that women who have abortions must submit to a sonogram and hear a description of the fetus as litigation proceeds.
Wed January 11, 2012 8:59 pm
Flickr | Daniel Lobo

Texas can now enforce its new sonogram law, after a three-judge panel of Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals reversed a lower court’s injunction against the mandate Tuesday.

According to the “sonogram law,” which was passed last session, a woman who wants to have an abortion in Texas must now submit to a trans-vaginal sonogram and listen to the fetal heartbeat, if one is present, as well as the doctor’s description of the fetus, the Associated Press  reported.

The law’s opponents argued this is unconstitutionally vague and curbs the free speech rights of doctors and patients, which led to a ruling in August from  U.S. District Judge Sam Sparks, who granted an injunction blocking enforcement of the controversial mandate. (With the injunction lifted, sonograms will be performed while litigation in the case proceeds.)

But proponents didn’t see it that way. They maintain that it was enacted to ensure a woman has “informed consent” about the medical procedure, and from her opinion, it’s clear Chief Judge Edith H. Jones agrees:

“Relevant” informed consent may entail not only the physical and psychological risks to the expectant mother facing this “difficult moral decision,” but also the state’s legitimate interests in “protecting the potential life within her.”

The required disclosures of a sonogram, the fetal heartbeat, and their medical descriptions are the epitome of truthful, non-misleading information.

(The members of the three-judge panel—all Reagan appointees—issued a 26-page  opinion detailing their objections to that argument and kicked the case back to Sparks’ court.)

“The decision was the first by a federal appellate court upholding the constitutionality of a state law mandating a physician’s description of an ultrasound, said Nancy Northup, president of the Center for Reproductive Rights,” Nathan Koppel wrote in the Wall Street Journal . “If this decision stands, it opens the floodgates for other states to insert themselves in an inappropriate way between doctors and women seeking medical care,” Northup said.

Cecile Richards, president of the Planned Parenthood Federation of America, was outraged by the decision.

Politicians forcing doctors to use an ultrasound for political — and not medical — reasons is the very definition of government intrusion.  This is a terrible day for Texas women and their families, and this decision sets an abhorrent precedent as state legislatures across the country convene for 2012 sessions.

At Hay Ladies , Andrea Grimes reminds readers that a trans-vaginal sonogram is no “jelly-on-the-belly”-style procedure:

[L]et’s be super, super clear: as of today, Texas can and no doubt will require–require!–people to be penetrated vaginally with a tubular probe if they want to obtain a legal medical procedure. Again: abortion-seeking people may not refuse the vaginal probe , and doctors face legal consequences if they do not administer it, even if they feel it is medically unnecessary or their patients do not want it.

The bill’s sponsor, State Sen. Dan Patrick, R-Houston, hailed the Fifth Circuit’s ruling as “a victory for women’s health and for the protection of the unborn,” Chuck Lindell reported in the Austin American-Statesman , and Governor Rick Perry, who made the abortion legislation one of his emergency priorities last session, released a statement on the ruling from the campaign trail in South Carolina:

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.”

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