Federal Court Rules Texas Sonogram Law Violates First Amendment

Aug 30, 2011 8:11pm

A federal judge struck down a Texas law late today that required a sonogram be conducted before an abortion, ruling that provisions of the law violated the First Amendment rights of doctors.

The law, which passed during this year’s legislative session in Texas, required women to obtain a sonogram, listen to a physician describe the sonogram, and hear the fetus’ heartbeat at least 24 hours before receiving an abortion.  A reproductive rights group based in New York had sued to block the law.

U.S. District Judge Sam Sparks argued in his ruling that the law violated First Amendment rights because “the Act compels physicians to advance an ideological agenda with which they may not agree, regardless of any medical necessity, and irrespective of whether the pregnant women wish to listen.”

Texas Governor Rick Perry, an anti-abortion advocate who has referred to the Texas sonogram law while campaigning, expressed disappointment with the court’s decision.

“Every life lost to abortion is a tragedy and today’s ruling is a great disappointment to all Texans who stand in defense of life,” Perry said in a statement.  ”This important sonogram legislation ensures that every Texas woman seeking an abortion has all the facts about the life she is carrying, and understands the devastating impact of such a life-changing decision. I have full confidence in Attorney General Abbott’s efforts to appeal this decision as he defends the laws enacted by the Texas Legislature.”

The bill was one of the new laws set to take effect in Texas on Thursday.

Perry, who has previously argued abortion should be a states’ rights issue, recently signed an anti-abortion pledge vowing to use federal means to outlaw abortion.

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