AUSTIN, Texas, January 10, 2012 (LifeSiteNews.com) - A federal appeals court has ruled that Texas may enforce a pro-life law passed last year requiring abortion-bound mothers be told of their baby’s stage of development and offered the option of hearing his or her heartbeat.
A three-judge panel of the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals lifted a temporary injunction against the law and advised U.S. District Judge Sam Sparks to reverse his ruling against the law from last August.
The court also flatly contradicted opponents’ claims that the law, which requires doctors to disclose details of the baby’s limb and organ development, was an assault on abortionists’ constitutional rights as a form of forced-speech.
“The required disclosures of a sonogram, the fetal heartbeat, and their medical descriptions are the epitome of truthful, non-misleading information,” wrote Chief Judge Edith H. Jones in her opinion. The court pointed to Supreme Court precedent supporting informed-consent statutes against the same argument.
After opponents argued that the information was medically superfluous, Jones countered that, given that abortion is not used strictly as a medical procedure but as an exercise in self-determination, informed consent is essential. “The point of informed consent laws is to allow the patient to evaluate her condition and render her best decision under difficult circumstances,” she wrote. “Denying her up-to-date medical information is more of an abuse to her ability to decide than providing the information.”
The law, passed in the 2011 Legislative Session and deemed a legislative “emergency” by pro-life Texas Gov. Rick Perry, was hit with a lawsuit by the Center for Reproductive Rights, which procured the injunction before it was due to go into effect last September.
Under the law abortionists will have to offer women the option of hearing the heartbeat of their unborn child and seeing the child’s image in a sonogram, a procedure normally performed before abortions but normally out of sight of the mother. The mother may decline; however, the abortionist must describe her unborn child at that stage in his development, and describe what organs and limbs are formed as well. Exceptions are made when the unborn child was conceived in rape or incest, or suffers from a severe disability.
Kristan Hawkins of Students for Life of America hailed the ruling as “a paramount victory for women and the pro-life movement.”
“The Fifth Circuit has recognized that women deserve to be told the truth about abortion procedures. I am excited to see how this impacts the rate of abortion in Texas and the many lives that will be saved,” said Hawkins in a statement Tuesday.