Court allows Texas to force women into medically unnecessary sonograms

By Stephen C. Webster
Tuesday, January 10, 2012 14:21 EDT
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An anti-abortion protester demonstrates near the U.S. Supreme Court on Jan. 25, 2006. Photo: Flickr user ElvertBarnes.
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The Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals ruled on Tuesday that  Texas may enforce a law passed last year which requires women seeking abortion services to undergo an invasive, medically unnecessary trans-vaginal sonogram procedure before ending their pregnancy.

The ruling overturned a restraining order issued by a lower court in August by striking down the argument that requiring doctors to show women their fetus and hear sounds from inside their uterus stands as a type of “compelled speech” that violates the doctors’ rights.

However, the Fifth Circuit Court said that is not the case, citing a 1992 Supreme Court decision that placed “informed consent” above the doctors’ right to be free from “compelled speech.” The legal standard for regulations on “compelled speech,” the 1992 decision held, is that the information a doctor is being ordered to present must be “truthful, non-misleading and relevant.”

“The required disclosures of a sonogram, the fetal heartbeat, and their medical descriptions are the epitome of truthful, non-misleading information,” Judge Edith H. Jones opined, striking down the Center for Reproductive Rights’ challenge to the law.

“Today’s ruling is a victory for all who stand in defense of life,” Texas Governor Rick Perry (R) said during a campaign appearance in New Hampshire. “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.”

The Texas law allows women who’ve been the victims of rape or incest to avoid the sonogram by certifying in writing that she’s the victim of a crime. Similarly, women forced to undergo a sonogram to obtain an abortion in Texas do not have to observe the images or listen to the sounds of their uterus.

The lower court that had previously restrained the law was still expected to issue a ruling on its constitutionality in the coming months.

Photo: Flickr user ElvertBarnes.

Stephen C. Webster
Stephen C. Webster
Stephen C. Webster is the senior editor of Raw Story, and is based out of Austin, Texas. He previously worked as the associate editor of The Lone Star Iconoclast in Crawford, Texas, where he covered state politics and the peace movement’s resurgence at the start of the Iraq war. Webster has also contributed to publications such as True/Slant, Austin Monthly, The Dallas Business Journal, The Dallas Morning News, Fort Worth Weekly, The News Connection and others. Follow him on Twitter at @StephenCWebster.
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