Judge upholds Texas Sonogram law, it will be enforced starting today
AUSTIN – U.S. District Judge Sam Sparks said in a ruling Monday that he cannot stop a new sonogram law from taking effect and pointedly suggested that three appellate court judges who overruled him last month had misapplied an earlier U.S. Court decision involving abortion.
The state of Texas will begin enforcing the law Tuesday, according to a spokeswoman for the Texas Health Services Commission.
“Our enforcement activities can begin now that the materials and guidance are in place. We’ll be providing technical assistance along the way, but facilities need to follow the law, and we’ll be checking up on that during our facility inspections,” said Carrie Williams, a spokeswoman for the agency. “We understand that this affects the facilities and the women who are going there for services, and we want to make sure everyone is well informed about this.”
The Republican-controlled Legislature approved a restrictive abortion bill last year requiring physicians to provide a sonogram before performing an abortion. A woman seeking an abortion can choose whether to view the sonogram images and whether to hear the fetal heartbeat. She also is required to hear the medical explanation of the sonogram at least 24 hours before the procedure.
The judge indicated in his ruling that he believes the law violates the First Amendment rights of physicians and is constitutionally vague, but said three judges from the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals had directed his ruling when they overturned a temporary injunction that kept the law from taking effect on Oct. 1.
“The concept that the government may make puppets out of doctors, provided it does not step on their patients’ rights, is not one this court believes is consistent with the Constitution, in the abortion context or otherwise,” Sparks wrote.
The judge also complained that doctors should not have to risk a $10,000 fine, a criminal charge and losing their medical license.
Sparks spent 30 years defending doctors and hospitals while practicing law in El Paso before being appointed to the federal court.
I fully expect this law to be eventually overturned at some point. It will be interesting to see the reactions of women and their families in Texas who will be subjected to this.
I wonder how much these sonograms will cost and who will carry the burden?