A federal judge has blocked key parts of a Texas abortion law that would require doctors to provide a sonogram to pregnant women before they go through with the procedure. As written, the law would require women seeking an abortion in Texas to view a picture of the embryo or fetus and hear a description of its development before having the procedure. It was to take effect on September 1.
U.S. District Judge Sam Sparks found several portions of the law to be “unconstitutionally vague,” and that it violates the First Amendment by forcing doctors and patients to engage in government-mandated speech.
The law was a major part of Republican Governor and presidential candidate Rick Perry’s agenda in this year’s Texas legislative session. Perry said the goal of the law was to make sure women have all information necessary to make an informed decision on an important medical procedure. He and Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott, also a Republican, vowed to appeal the ruling.
“Every life lost to abortion is a tragedy and today’s ruling is a great disappointment to all Texans who stand in defense of life,” Perry said in a statement.
Supporters of the bill, such as Perry, believe that it is necessary to protect the rights of unborn children. However, opponents believe that the bill violates the privacy rights of women and doctors.
“The act compels physicians to advance an ideological agenda with which they may not agree, regardless of any medical necessity, and irrespective of whether the pregnant women wish to listen,” Sparks said in the ruling.
The law, if the state were to later prevail in court, would require that a sonogram viewing take place 24 hours before an abortion, or two hours before the procedure for women who live over 100 miles from the abortion clinic.
The bill would also require women pregnant from rape or incest to provide a written statement if they do not wish to hear the doctor’s explanation of the sonogram images.
“The Court need not belabor the obvious by explaining why, for instance, women who are pregnant as a result of sexual assault or incest may not wish to certify that fact in writing, particularly if they are too afraid of retaliation to even report the matter to police,” Sparks wrote.
“When women make a decision they have done it after giving it careful thought,” said attorney Julie Rikelman of the New York-based Center for Reproductive Rights, which filed the lawsuit against the bill.
The case is expected to be appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court.