Lawsuit challenges Texas’ pre-abortion sonogram legislation

Posted on: June 13th, 2011 by Mary Tuma 1 Comment

The Center for Reproductive Rights (CRR) announced today it has filed a class action lawsuit against Texas’ mandatory pre-abortion sonogram bill, controversial legislation that passed this session requiring women seeking abortions to undergo a sonogram at least 24 hours before the procedure (with the waiting period reduced to two hours in areas more than 100 miles from an abortion provider). Doctors must also show and describe the images to the woman and play sounds of the fetal heartbeat.

BeBe Anderson, senior counsel to the pro-abortion rights group, said CRR hopes to block the Texas bill with a preliminary injunction, preventing it from going into effect.

“We filed a challenge today because this bill is incredibly intrusive; it hijacks the doctor-patient relationship and is another part of the anti-choice agenda. You expect your doctor to act in your best interest, but this bill turns the ethics around as physicians are forced to feed images, sounds and information that the state has decided a woman needs to know,” she said.

Categorized by Gov. Rick Perry as ‘emergency legislation,’ the bill was fast-tracked by the governor and is scheduled to take effect this September.

CRR argues the bill violates the First Amendment rights of both the doctor and the patient by “forcing physicians to deliver politically-motivated communications to women, regardless of their wishes.”

“This law barges in on the doctor-patient relationship” said CRR president Nancy Northup in a news release. “When you go to the doctor, you expect to be given information that is relevant to your particular medical decisions and circumstances, not to be held hostage and subjected to an anti-choice agenda.”

Additionally, CRR charges that the law discriminates against women by subjecting them to paternalistic “protections” not imposed on men and that the ultrasound requirements violate “basic principles of medical ethics and serve no medical purpose.”

As the Texas Independent previously reported, bill author state Rep. Sid Miller (R-Stephenville) said the sonogram legislation was “necessary because women seeking abortions “are under a lot of emotional stress” and many women who had abortions had “disturbed, emotional problems later in life.”

“This law is patronizing to women in Texas. It is based on outdated stereotypes that women are too immature or too incompetent to make important decisions,” Northup said. “It’s as if the politician has charged into the doctor’s office and told the woman, ‘Honey, you just don’t understand what you are doing. Let me explain it to you and tell you what to do.’”

The suit, Texas Medical Providers Performing Abortion Services v. Department of State Health Services Commissioner David Lakey, was filed in U.S. District Court for the Western District of Texas in Austin.

During the March House debate, state Rep. Joaquin Castro (D-San Antonio) warned that of the 20 states that have passed pre-abortion sonogram legislation, only Oklahoma’s was completely mandatory and it was still bound up in court, the Texas Independent previously reported. In 2010, CRP filed a similar challenge against Oklahoma’s ultrasound law. The legislation has been blocked from enforcement until the case is resolved, CRP spokesperson Dionne Scott said.

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