Texas's Sonogram Law Gets New Lease on Life

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The Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals struck down the temporary injunction on Texas's so-called sonogram law, clearing the way for abortion providers to enforce the new mandate.

The law, championed by Senator Dan Patrick, requires a sonogram whenever a woman seeks an abortion. The law requires the woman, in almost every case, to see the sonogram, hear a description of the fetus from the doctor and to hear the fetal heartbeat.

"I am extremely gratified that the sonogram bill will finally take effect," Patrick said. "I have worked to pass this bill for five years and I am grateful to the Fifth Circuit for their rapid action on this important issue."

The law, in limbo for three months, was scheduled to go into effect on October 1 last year. The decision was roundly praised by the conservative Liberty Institute and both David Dewhurst and Rick Perry from the campaign trail in South Carolina.

"Today's ruling is a victory for all who stand in defense of life," Perry said in a statement released from his office. "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. We will continue to fight any attempt to limit our state's laws that value and protect the unborn."

Perry, of course, had a Road to Damascus moment on the issue of abortion on the presidential campaign trail, now saying that abortion is unacceptable under any circumstance. In the past, Perry has said he would support abortion in cases of rape and incest.

The appeals court decision reverses the decision put in place by Judge Sam Sparks last August, which presumed that plaintiffs had met the burden of proof in at least two claims: that the law was an imposition on free speech of both doctor and patient and that the penalties were vague.

Chief Judge Edith Jones, who authored the opinion, disagreed.

"In attempting to ensure that a woman apprehends 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," Jones wrote.

The Center for Reproductive Rights called the decision unprecedented.

"One of the most extreme mandatory ultrasound laws in the nation has now led to an extreme court decision on this issue," said Nancy Northup, president and CEO of the Center for Reproductive Rights. "This clears the way for the enforcement of an insulting and intrusive law whose sole purpose is to harass women and dissuade them from exercising their constitutionally protected reproductive rights. Until today, every court that has reviewed similarly intrusive laws has ruled the laws unconstitutional."

The conservative group the Liberty Institute called the decision "one of the most important victories in the past 10 years for informed consent for women seeking an abortion."

While the preliminary injunction of the law is vacated, another round of litigation, on a permanent injunction, will be back in Sparks's court on January 20.

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