June 14, 2011 — The Center for Reproductive Rights on Monday filed a federal lawsuit seeking to block a Texas law that requires a woman seeking an abortion to have an ultrasound and hear a detailed description of the fetus at least 24 hours before the procedure, the Dallas Morning News reports. The law is set to take effect Sept. 1 (Hoppe, Dallas Morning News, 6/13). The law requires that a doctor give a woman the option to view the ultrasound and attempt to hear the fetus' heartbeat. If she opts out, the doctor must describe the image of the fetus, including any internal organs or limbs. The measure includes exemptions for survivors of rape or incest or if the fetus has fatal abnormalities. It also exempts women living more than 100 miles away from abortion clinics (Women's Health Policy Report, 5/20).
CRR, which filed the suit on behalf of a physician coalition, said the law should be deemed unconstitutional and "unenforceable." According to the suit, the law is a "profound" intrusion "on the practice of medicine, forces physicians to deliver ideological speech to patients and treats women as less than fully competent adults." The law would "compel physicians to deliver to their patients government-mandated speech ... that falls outside the accepted standards and practices for medical informed consent," the suit argues. The law also would "force physicians to violate basic standards of medical ethics by compelling them to disregard the wishes of patients who do not want to receive this information," the suit states (Smith, "Newsdesk," Austin Chronicle, 6/13).
The law's supporters say it will provide women with better information and deter them from having abortions. However, CRR President Nancy Northup said the law is "based on outdated stereotypes that women are too immature or too incompetent to make important decisions." She added, "When you go to the doctor, you expect to be given information that is relevant to your particular medical decisions and circumstances, not to be held hostage and subjected to an anti-choice agenda."
The bill's sponsor, Sen. Dan Patrick (R), said he is not surprised that the law is being challenged but said it was drafted to withstand any lawsuits. "I feel absolutely confident that we will prevail," he added (Dallas Morning News, 6/13).