The Austin Chronicle

Court Upholds Ultrasound Law

By Jordan Smith, January 13, 2012, News

A three-judge panel of the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals on Jan. 10 overturned a lower court decision enjoining enforcement of certain provisions of Texas' new ultrasound-before-abortion law. In a unanimous decision, Chief Judge Edith Jones wrote that the Texas law is a reasonable extension of informed consent laws. The Center for Reproductive Rights, which has challenged the constitutionality of the law on behalf of a number of Texas doctors, charges that its mandatory nature offends constitutional rights. The law requires women to undergo an ultrasound 24 hours before termination and also requires doctors to display the sonogram, make the fetal heartbeat audible, and describe the fetal development to the woman. A woman may choose not to view the image or listen to the heartbeat – apparently by averting her eyes and sticking her fingers in her ears, the only clear way to avoid sight or sound during an invasive procedure that utilizes a transvaginal probe – but still must listen to the description of fetal development unless she avers that she was a victim of incest or rape (and has reported it) or can prove that her fetus has a fatal abnormality. The case will return to federal district court for further hearing; the larger case challenging the law is still pending, and there are additional claims about constitutionality that have yet to be considered. Whether the CRR will appeal the three-judge panel's ruling to the full 5th Circuit is still unclear. (For more, see "Fifth Circuit Approves Mandatory Ultrasound," Newsdesk blog, Jan. 11.)

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