U.S. federal judge says he can't block Texas sonogram law
Ruling clears the way for full-enforcement of the law
A U.S. federal judge has upheld the Texas law requiring women to have a sonogram before having an abortion, saying an appeals court had previously forced him to declare the law constitutional. District Judge Sam Sparks had previously struck down parts of the controversial law. With his latest ruling, Sparks says he's bound to follow the direction of the New Orleans-based appeals court.
A U.S. federal judge has upheld the Texas law requiring women to have a sonogram before having an abortion, saying an appeals court had previously forced him to declare the law constitutional. District Judge Sam Sparks had previously struck down parts of the law.
The Department of Health Services has since posted guidance letters and information for doctors and patients on its Web site. In addition, Spokeswoman Carrie Williams says that officials would be checking to make sure abortion providers were following procedures during facility inspections.
The new law requires doctors to show women images from sonograms play fetal heartbeats aloud and describe the features of fetuses at least 24 hours before their abortions are performed. There will be exceptions in cases of rape, incest, fetal deformity and for women who travel great distances to a doctor.
A group of doctors had first sued to block the law, saying it infringed upon their First Amendment rights. They also said that the law was unconstitutionally vague regarding enforcement. The doctors also claimed the law requires them to perform a procedure that is not medically necessary -- and women patients may not want to have it done.
Doctors who do not comply with the law could lose their medical license, be charged with a misdemeanor and face fines of up to $10,000.
Sparks struck down provisions in 2011 that required doctors to describe the images and others that required victims of sexual assault or incest to sign statements attesting to that fact. The judge said the state was trying to "permanently brand" these women.
A three judge panel of the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals had at first overturned Sparks' temporary ban. Shortly afterwards, the appeals court issued another opinion outlining why it considered the law constitutional.
The appeals court said disclosures of a sonogram, the fetal heartbeat and their medical descriptions "are the epitome of truthful, non-misleading information."
The appeals court specifically said it expected Sparks to follow its lead when issuing any future rulings. The lawsuit returned to Sparks' court last month when the doctors asked for a permanent block on the law. Sparks warned them he had few options but to uphold the law and the recent ruling made it clear he strongly disagreed with the appeals court.
"There can be little doubt (the law) is an attempt to discourage women from exercising their constitutional rights by making it more difficult for caring and competent physicians to perform abortions," Sparks wrote. "It appears (the appeals court) has effectively eviscerated the protections of the First Amendment in the abortion context."
Officials at the New York-based Center for Reproductive Rights, an organization which opposes the Right to life of the child in the womb had sued on behalf of some Texas doctors. The organization said they will appeal to block the law. They plan to attempt to use Judge Sparks' dicta in their argument.
© 2012, Catholic Online. Distributed by NEWS CONSORTIUM.
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Pope Benedict XVI's Prayer Intentions for January 2013
General Intention: The Faith of Christians. That in this Year of Faith Christians may deepen their knowledge of the mystery of Christ and witness joyfully to the gift of faith in him.
Missionary Intention: Middle Eastern Christians. That the Christian communities of the Middle East, often discriminated against, may receive from the Holy Spirit the strength of fidelity and perseverance.
Keywords: Sonograms, abortion, ferderal courts, Texas, pro-Life, Right to life
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