Texas ruling could impact N.C.’s new abortion law

Pro-choice groups have filed suit against a new law that creates a 24-hour waiting period before an abortion and requires physicians to offer an ultrasound image of the unborn child to the woman prior to the procedure. An appellate court ruling from Texas — a victory for pro-lifers — could impact the case here in North Carolina:

The Fifth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals on Tuesday upheld a Texas law that requires women seeking an abortion to have a sonogram exam and to listen to a physician’s detailed description of the fetus, including whether it has developed limbs or internal organs.

Supporters of the law, enacted last year, say it is designed to ensure that women are fully informed about abortions and, ultimately, to discourage them from undergoing the procedure. It requires all women seeking abortions to have a sonogram, also known as an ultrasound scan, but it allows some women—such as those who certify they are rape victims—to avoid hearing a description of the fetus or embryo.

In a constitutional challenge to the law, U.S. District judge Sam Sparks of Austin ruled in August that it violates physicians’ free-speech rights by compelling them 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.”

A three-judge panel of the Fifth Circuit reversed Judge Sparks, concluding that the law merely requires physicians to provide “truthful, non-misleading information” and therefore doesn’t violate their free-speech rights. The Fifth Circuit ruling clears the way for Texas to enforce the sonogram law, Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott said in a statement.

David N. Bass

Communications Director and Grants Officer for the John William Pope Foundation. Views expressed are his own.

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