Fifth Circuit Court Examines Texas Sonogram Law

Tuesday, January 4th, a federal three-judge panel heard arguments to determine whether to lift an injunction—issued by a pro-choice judge—on our new sonogram law; the law would require abortionists to provide women with a sonogram before an abortion.  Texas Right to Life Director Elizabeth Graham and Legislative Director John Seago attended the hearing to analyze how best we can continue to defend this law.

If enacted, the Sonogram Law—House Bill 15—would require abortionists to perform and show each woman undergoing an abortion a sonogram of her unborn child and give a verbal explanation of the image, while pointing out the child’s arms, legs, and head.  The law also requires the child’s heartbeat, if present, to be made audible for the woman to hear.

The panel, from the United States Court of Appeals of the 5th Circuit based in New Orleans, was critical of the grounds for the injunction, issued by lower court federal judge Sam Sparks.  Jonathan Mitchell, Solicitor General from Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott’s office, aptly argued the law to the panel.  Mitchell explained that the level of scrutiny, and the arguments used, to rule the law as unconstitutional—and thus block the law from going into effect—were misapplied and needed to be overturned.

Shortly after being signed into law by Governor Rick Perry, The Center for Reproductive Rights, a New York-based abortion advocacy law firm, filed a lawsuit to keep the law from being enforced, alleging that the law is “radical informed consent.”  Chief Judge Edith Jones, of the three-judge panel, responded by asking how medical sonogram imaging, and a factual description of that image, was radical.

The 82nd Legislature overwhelmingly passed the Sonogram Law, House Bill 15, so that women could make fully-informed decisions about their pregnancies.  Governmental bodies regulate informed consent frequently, and Texas legislators do not want abortion to be held to a lower standard than other surgical procedures.  Texas Right to Life played a key role in shaping, promoting, and passing House Bill 15.