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Federal court begins considering suit against Texas pre-abortion sonogram bill

A lawsuit filed against Texas’ mandatory pre-abortion sonogram bill saw its first hearing at a U.S. District Court in Austin on Wednesday.

Lawyers for the State of Texas asked a federal judge to keep the law intact even if sections of the legislation were found to be unconstitutional, and defended the language’s clarity, the Houston Chronicle reported. Opponents leading the legal challenge argued the legislation is ideologically driven, intrusive and “falls outside the accepted medical standards for informed consent.”

The controversial bill, passed this session as “emergency legislation,” requires women seeking abortions to undergo a sonogram at least 24 hours before the procedure (with the waiting period reduced to two hours in areas more than 100 miles from an abortion provider). Doctors must also show and describe the images to the woman and play audio of the fetal heartbeat. Doctors unwilling to abide by the law could lose their right to practice medicine in Texas.

The New York-based Center for Reproductive Rights requested an injunction to the law in June, as the Texas Independent previously reported. CRR alleges the law violates the First Amendment rights of both the doctor and the patient by “forcing physicians to deliver politically-motivated communications to women, regardless of their wishes.”

BeBe Anderson, senior counsel to the pro-abortion rights group told the Independent the bill “hijacks the doctor-patient relationship,” and described it as part of an anti-choice agenda.

“You expect your doctor to act in your best interest, but this bill turns the ethics around as physicians are forced to feed images, sounds and information that the state has decided a woman needs to know,” she said.

Author of the bill, Sen. Dan Patrick (R-Houston) was unsurprised by the legal challenge, the Austin American-Statesman wrote.

“Pro-abortion advocates have historically used activist courts to impose their agenda,” he said. “I am proud to have passed this important bill that ensures women have as much information available to them as possible before making this life-altering decision.”

U.S. District Judge Sam Sparks gave both parties 15 days to deliver supplemental evidence. The federal judge “appeared uncomfortable” with language in the bill that advised doctors to address sonogram explanations in a way that would be “understandable to a lay person,” the Chronicle reported. Sparks said it “seemed obvious” that the bill’s intention was limit abortions.

A decision is expected from Sparks before the law goes into effect September 1.

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