A federal judge has ruled that key parts of the Texan abortion law requiring doctors to provide pregnant women with a sonogram before they get an abortion were unconstitutional.
U.S. District Judge Sam Sparks ruled in a preliminary injunction issued on Tuesday that certain sections of the law were “unconstitutionally vague” and violated the First Amendment rights of both doctors and patients.
Sparks prohibited the state from penalizing doctors who did not show a pregnant woman sonogram pictures of her fetus or did not make the heartbeat audible – if the woman declined to see or hear that information.
The order also blocked penalties against the woman.
"The act compels physicians to advance an ideological agenda with which they may not agree, regardless of any medical necessity, and irrespective of whether the pregnant women wish to listen,” said Judge Sam Sparks in the ruling.
An Austin-based federal judge for the Western District of Texas, Sparks also banned the requirement that women who wished to bypass the provision could do so if they provided written statement that the pregnancy was a result of rape or incest.
"The Court need not belabor the obvious by explaining why, for instance, women who are pregnant as a result of sexual assault or incest may not wish to certify that fact in writing, particularly if they are too afraid of retaliation to even report the matter to police," wrote Sparks.
However, Judge Sam Sparks has upheld the requirement of the abortion law that sonograms be performed – due to take effect on September 1.
Nancy Northup, president and CEO of the Center for Reproductive Rights (CRR), said in press release, “Today's ruling is a huge victory for women in Texas and a clear signal to the state legislature that it went too far when it passed this law.”
“Politicians have no business telling doctors how to practice medicine or meddling in women's private medical decisions," she added.
The CRR filed the lawsuit in June, which was granted class-actions status.
Texas Governor and Republican presidential candidate Rick Perry, an anti-abortion advocate, said in statement:
"Every life lost to abortion is a tragedy and (the) ruling is a great disappointment to all Texans who stand in defense of life. This important sonogram legislation ensures that every Texas woman seeking an abortion has all the facts about the life she is carrying, and understands the devastating impact of such a life-changing decision."