Preliminary Injunction Sought Against Texas Ultrasound Law

July 6, 2011 — The Center for Reproductive Rights on Thursday filed a motion for a preliminary injunction against a Texas law that requires a woman seeking abortion care to have an ultrasound and hear a detailed description of the fetus at least 24 hours before the abortion procedure, the Houston Chronicle reports. CRR alleges that the amendment to the state's Woman's Right to Know Act is unconstitutionally vague and violates physicians' free speech rights by "using them as puppets to convey government mandated speech ... to a patient who does not wish to receive that information."

Texas Gov. Rick Perry (R) signed the amendment (HB 15) into law on May 19, and it is slated to take effect in October (Turner, Houston Chronicle, 7/2). 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 law requires a 24-hour waiting period between the consultation and the abortion procedure for women living within 100 miles of the clinic and a two-hour waiting period for women living more than 100 miles away. The measure includes exemptions for survivors of rape or incest or if the fetus has fatal abnormalities. CRR first filed a lawsuit against the amendment in mid-June (Women's Health Policy Report, 6/14).

CRR lead attorney Bebe Anderson said the Texas law is "most definitely the most extreme of this kind in the country." She added that the law is "an instrusive hijacking of the doctor-patient relationship" and is based on "stereotypes of women too incompetent and immature to make these important decisions about reproduction."

Jennifer Allman, associate director of the Austin-based Texas Catholic Conference of the Roman Catholic Bishops of Texas, testified in favor of the amendment, arguing that the provisions of the modified law "are an important step for informed consent" (Houston Chronicle, 7/2).