Texas abortion law requiring ultrasound confirmed by US court


A Texas law requiring abortion providers to show or describe an ultrasound image to a woman of her pregnancy and play the fetal heart sounds does not violate the U.S. Constitution, a federal appeals court ruled on Tuesday.

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By Terry Baynes

A Texas law requiring abortion providers to show or describe an ultrasound image to a woman of her pregnancy and play the fetal heart sounds does not violate the U.S. Constitution, a federal appeals court ruled on Tuesday.

The court ruled that the ultrasound requirements did not infringe on the free speech rights of abortion providers, overturning a lower federal court ruling.

“The disclosures required of an ultrasound, fetal heart rate and their medical descriptions are the epitome of truthful and not misleading information,” Chief Justice Edith Jones wrote for the three-judge panel.

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Texas law, enacted in 2011, requires abortion providers to display ultrasound images and describe them in detail. While a woman seeking an abortion may refuse to see the ultrasound required by law, she cannot refuse to hear the doctor’s description unless she qualifies for an exception due to rape. , incest or fetal anomaly.

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A coalition of medical providers sued in June to block the law, arguing it made doctors “spokespersons” for the state’s ideological message. The First Amendment includes protections against forced speech.

The challengers, represented by the Center for Reproductive Rights, also argued that disclosure of the ultrasound and fetal heart rate was not “medically necessary” and therefore beyond the power of the state to regulate the practice. of medicine.

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An Austin federal judge ruled that the law violates doctors’ right to free speech. But the United States Court of Appeals for the 5th Circuit disagreed.

“It is only if one supposes… that the pregnancy is a condition to be terminated, that one can suppose that such information on the fetus is medically irrelevant”, concluded the judicial panel.

The panel cited a 1992 decision in Planned Parenthood v. Casey in which the Supreme Court upheld a law requiring abortion providers to inform pregnant women of relevant health risks and the gestational age of the fetus. The High Court ruled that doctors could be required to provide information that is truthful, not misleading and relevant to the decision to abort.

Center for Reproductive Rights president Nancy Northup said in a statement that the ruling “paves the way for the enforcement of an insulting and intrusive law whose sole purpose is to harass women and deter them from exercising. their reproductive rights protected by the Constitution ”.

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Texas law is one of the most extreme ultrasound requirements in the country. Similar laws requiring the presentation of an ultrasound image to pregnant women have been blocked in Oklahoma and North Carolina.

Six other states also require abortion providers to perform an ultrasound and offer women the ability to view the image, according to the Guttmacher Institute, which specializes in researching reproductive issues. But unlike Texas, these states don’t require women to hear a description of the image.

The Solicitor General’s office, which represented Texas officials, did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

Texas Gov. Rick Perry, as he campaigned for the Republican nomination for president, hailed the move as a victory. “This important ultrasound legislation ensures that every woman in Texas seeking an abortion has all the facts about the life she is leading,” Perry said in a statement.

© Thomson Reuters 2012

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