The Brief: Top Texas News for July 7, 2011

The Big Conversation:

A small surprise met the Texas abortion sonogram law's first day in federal court.

In June, the New York-based Center for Reproductive Rights filed suit against the law, which requires doctors performing abortions to conduct a sonogram of the fetus and describe it in detail to the woman. Gov. Rick Perry signed the sonogram bill into law in May after Texas lawmakers passed it during the legislative session earlier this year.

As the Tribune's Chris Hooks reports, the courtroom twist arose Wednesday with the plaintiffs' decision against challenging the law on the usual grounds of whether it placed an "undue burden" on women seeking abortions. 

Debate instead largely centered on the clarity of the law's language, with U.S. District Judge Sam Sparks — appointed to the bench by George H.W. Bush — at one point asking what the law meant in requiring doctors to offer a description of the fetus "in a manner understandable to a layperson."

 

The state, responding to the question and several others, answered that agencies would appropriately enforce the law as they saw fit. “So it’s sort of vague, isn’t it?” Sparks responded.

The center also argued, as the Austin American-Statesman notes, that requiring a description of the fetus was "not part of standard medical care."

Lawyers for the state, who said the language was "not vague," called on Sparks to heed the law's "severability clause" and not to throw out the entire measure if he found part of it unconstitutional.

Sparks said he'd rule on the case before the law takes effect on Sept. 1.

Culled:

  • Republican presidential front-runner Mitt Romney's may have far outpaced his GOP primary rivals with an $18 million fundraising haul for the quarter, but the fundraising game still has Republicans worried — and that $18 million won't likely be enough, Politico notes, to scare off Gov. Rick Perry.
  • Karl Rove, the former campaign mastermind for George W. Bush, thinks Gov. Rick Perry is in. Texas "is a big state with nearly 24 million people," Rove said on Fox Business Network, according to The Hill. "And if you're the governor of the state, you have the capacity to go out and raise a lot of money from people."
  • If history's any guide, as The Dallas Morning News notes, Gov. Rick Perry will likely buck calls to grant a stay of execution to Humberto Leal Jr., a Mexican national whose death row case has sparked fierce debate over international law and has drawn the attention of the Obama administration, which last week took the unusual step of asking the U.S. Supreme Court to halt the execution. The state is set to execute Leal today. National Journal also has a look at the issue in a Perry presidential context.
  • Maj. Nidal Malik Hasan, accused of killing 13 people in a shooting spree at Fort Hood in 2009, will face the death penalty, the military announced Wednesday.

"I think you're right that he's going to run." —  Karl Rove on Gov. Rick Perry

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