Federal appeals court allows enforcement of Texas abortion sonogram law News
Federal appeals court allows enforcement of Texas abortion sonogram law
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[JURIST] The US Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit [official website] on Tuesday lifted an injunction [opinion, PDF] on a Texas law [text, PDF] that requires women to have a sonogram before undergoing an abortion [JURIST news archive], allowing the law to be enforced. In addition to the sonogram, the new law also dictates that the woman must listen to a detailed description of the development of the fetus. Any doctor who does not comply with the standards could lose his or her license to practice medicine. The suit, brought by a class of doctors represented by the Center for Reproductive Rights (CRR) [advocacy website], claimed the new law violates the First Amendment by compelling speech. The appeals court determined that plaintiffs were unlikely to succeed on the merits, citing the Supreme Court’s decision in Planned Parenthood v. Casey [text] which found that providing truthful, non-misleading facts did not pose an undue burden on women:

The Court’s decision in Casey accented the state’s interest in potential life, holding that its earlier decisions following Roe failed to give this interest force at all stages of a pregnancy and that in service of this interest the state may insist that a woman be made aware of the development of the fetus at her stage of pregnancy. Significantly, the Court held that the fact that such truthful, accurate information may cause a woman to choose not to abort her pregnancy only reinforces its relevance to an informed decision. Insisting that a doctor give this information in his traditional role of securing informed consent is permissible. Texas has done just this and affords three exceptions to its required delivery of information about the stage of fetal growth where in its judgment the information had less relevance, a legislative judgment that is at least rational.

Planned Parenthood [advocacy website] issued a statement after the ruling claiming that the law is demeaning and intrusive [press release] and would intimidate women. The CRR has not decided whether to challenge the law in front of the full Fifth Circuit, but has said that it will continue to pursue a challenge [press release] to the law.

Texas Governor Rick Perry [official website] signed the measure into law in May, but it was blocked in August by a federal judge after a challenge [JURIST reports] from the CRR. Both Oklahoma and North Carolina have enacted similar laws. A federal judge granted a preliminary injunction [JURIST report] against the North Carolina in October. With the sonogram portion temporarily removed, the rest of the North Carolina law went into force. Oklahoma’s law has also been blocked [JURIST report].