Expectant mothers and their unborn babies won an important victory in federal court yesterday. The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit rebuffed a challenge to the Texas sonogram bill, a new law that, among other things, requires abortionists, before doing an abortion, to take and display to the mother a sonogram of the unborn baby and to let the expectant mother hear the baby’s heartbeat.
The new Texas law had been scheduled to apply to abortions after October 1, 2011. However, abortionists had filed a federal lawsuit challenging the new bill, and a federal district court on August 30 had granted a preliminary injunction forbidding enforcement of key sections of the statute.
The district court had ruled that requiring abortionists to provide information to women as part of the informed consent process “compels speech” and triggers strict scrutiny. The court went on to hold that the Texas law was not likely to survive such strict scrutiny.
This should be common sense. Informed consent is an established part of medical practice. Doctors are supposed to advise their patients, beforehand, of the nature and risks of a contemplated procedure. A physician who keeps his patient in the dark can be sued for malpractice. Nevertheless, the abortionists in this case argued for a different, demanding legal standard for informed consent.
Three judges on the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals panel unanimously agreed: “such laws are part of the state’s reasonable regulation of medical practice and do not fall under the rubric of compelling ‘ideological’ speech that triggers First Amendment strict scrutiny.”
Now that women in Texas will be seeing and hearing their babies before the abortionist can apply the knife to them, we may see a very significant drop in the number of abortions done. If so, that will be a triumph of both knowledge and life.
The American Center for Law and Justice (ACLJ) had filed an amicus brief, on behalf of itself and the Houston Coalition for Life (HCL), supporting the Texas law. The case is Texas Medical Providers Performing Abortion Services v. Lakey, and the appeals court’s opinion is available here.