By Dave Andrusko
The ink was barely dry before the Center for Reproductive Rights (CRR) today filed a class action lawsuit in the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Texas, challenging the state’s new sonogram law (see www.nationalrighttolifenews.org/news/2011/05/texas-pro-life-gov-rick-perry-signs-ultrasound-bill/)
The new law says that the abortion-vulnerable woman must be able to see an ultrasound at least 24 hours before an abortion is performed and that the abortionist must give “in a manner understandable to a layperson, a verbal explanation of the results of the sonogram images, including a medical description of the dimensions of the embryo or fetus, the presence of cardiac activity, and the presence of external members and internal organs.”
The woman, of course, may choose not to view the sonogram. The law takes effect September 1.
“This law barges in on the doctor-patient relationship,” maintained Nancy Northrup, president of the CRR. “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.”
The CRR further argues that the law “violate 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.” According to CRR’s press release, the suit was filed on behalf of Texas Medical Providers Performing Abortion Services, a plaintiff class of physicians and medical facilities that provide abortions.
Catherine Frazier, a spokeswoman for pro-life Gov. Rick Perry told the Associated Press that Perry “believes the sonogram legislation is important to protect unborn life” in Texas.
The lawsuit is the latest development that began when Gov. Perry categorized the law as “emergency legislation,” meaning the bill was given an early start in the legislative process and fast-tracked.
The measure became law May 20 after a long, drawn-out series of negotiations, votes in the House (94-41) and Senate (21-10, on a second reading), and the signature of Gov. Perry.
At the time the bill became law, Texas Right to Life said it was “pleased that Governor Perry signed the sonogram bill,” Elizabeth Graham, director of Texas Right to Life. “The sonogram is an important piece of informed consent before abortion. If the new sonogram law is followed as intended by legislators, most women considering abortion will see the active child and hear the heartbeat and choose to continue their pregnancies.”
The importance of sonograms are that they “offer a mother a window to her womb, giving her a first glimpse of her living unborn child at his earliest stage of life,” said Mary Spaulding Balch, Director of the National Right to Life State Legislation Department. “This is an essential piece of information for any mother if her decision is to be truly informed.”
Prior to final passage Texas Right to Life (National Right to Life’s state affiliate) described the backdrop to this important victory.
“We have been working on the sonogram bill for five years. Most abortion clinics claim that a sonogram is already done prior to abortion. The problem is that women have been refused the option to view the screen and to see their unborn child. Texas Right to Life has always supported the woman’s right to see her sonogram, but we needed to codify that right in the sonogram bill. [This version] requires abortion clinics to do a sonogram before every abortion and give the woman the option to view her unborn child and listen to her unborn child’s heartbeat.”