Updated: Jan. 13, 2012 at 3:43 pm.
AUSTIN, Texas, January 12, 2012 (LifeSiteNews.com) – Pro-life leaders are calling yesterday’s ruling in favor of a recent sonogram bill in Texas one of the most significant pro-life gains of the decade, although the bill’s court battle has yet to reach its final chapter.
HB 15, which passed and was enthusiastically signed by Gov. Rick Perry last year, requires abortionists to tell mothers details of their baby’s stage of development and to make the sonogram image of their child visible, and his or her heartbeat audible, leaving it to the woman to decide whether to look at the screen or not. The Center for Reproductive Rights immediately filed suit against HB 15, winning an injunction from U.S. District Court Judge Sam Sparks prior to its Sept 1 enforcement date, but that injunction was overturned by a 3-judge panel of the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals in a ruling this week.
“This is one of the most important victories in the past 10 years for informed consent for women seeking an abortion,” said Jonathan Saenz, a Liberty Institute attorney who provided the main testimony for the bill during the legislative process. “Women and unborn children in Texas are safer today because of this decision and no longer subject to the abuse of abortion doctors who deny women critical medical information.”
Texas Right to Life Legislative Director John Seago told LifeSiteNews.com in a telephone interview Wednesday that the ruling was surprising in several respects. “We think that the ruling is extremely significant for the pro-life movement, not just in Texas, but in the country,” said Seago.
Although a final decision has not been reached in Judge Sparks’ courtroom, the 3-judge panel not only overturned the injunction, but went further, deeming several of opponents’ central claims against the bill false.
“To belabor the obvious and conceded point, 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, who also noted that denying abortion-bound women data about her decision “is more of an abuse to her ability to decide” than supplying it.
The panel also directed that any other appeals or motions would have to come to the same panel of three judges, barring an appeals trial more favorable to opponents, although Seago said he was unsure whether CRR could eventually appeal to an en banc court.
For now, the case goes back down to Sparks’ courtroom, which is expected to issue a ruling January 20. Sparks has made clear his opposition to the sonogram law, said Seago, which means he might ignore the higher court’s recommendations.
“We’re not done yet,” said Seago.
Seago also noted that the law is especially strong because, unlike other sonogram laws, it requires abortionists to place the sonogram image in a patient’s line of vision, to help women make their own choice. “It’s her decision to look at it or not, and not the abortionist’s to put it in front of her,” he said.
Mailee Smith, an expert on ultrasound laws at Americans United for Life, agreed that the Texas bill was unusually strong for its type, and that the ruling set important precedent for pro-life informed consent bills in the future.
“This affirms other areas of informed consent as well, such as the giving of truthful information on studies demonstrating a link between abortion and breast cancer, and abortion and the risk of suicide,” Smith told LifeSiteNews.com.