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Updated: Judge Rules Abortion Sonogram Law Can't Take Effect Yet

U.S. District Judge Sam Sparks has ruled that the state can't yet enforce the abortion sonogram law slated to go into effect on Thursday.

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31 Days 31 Ways

Throughout the month of August, The Texas Tribune is featuring 31 ways Texans' lives will change come Sept. 1, the date most bills passed by the Legislature — including the dramatically reduced budget — take effect. Check out our story calendar here

Updated: U.S. District Judge Sam Sparks has granted a temporary injunction in the case over the state's abortion sonogram law. In a ruling today, first reported by the Austin Chronicle, he said the state can't enforce the measure until a court rules on the lawsuit filed against it by the New York-based Center for Reproductive Rights on behalf of several local doctors. 

Day 11: Women seeking an abortion in Texas will be required to hear a description of the results of an ultrasound examination.

In May, Gov. Rick Perry enthusiastically signed a bill that will require doctors performing abortions to conduct a sonogram of the fetus and describe it in detail to the mother. Women seeking abortions must then wait 24 hours before having the abortion performed, unless they live more than 100 miles away from the nearest clinic, in which case the waiting period is two hours. Exemptions to the law are provided in cases of rape or incest, medical emergency or in the case of fetal abnormality or defect. 

To understand how abortion providers will be affected by the law, we interviewed Dr. Scott Spear, the medical director at Planned Parenthood of the Texas Capital Region. See the video below.

The law is currently being challenged in federal court. U.S. District Judge Sam Sparks has said he plans to rule on the case by September. The New York-based Center for Reproductive Rights filed the suit in June, before requesting an injunction to prevent the law from going into effect on Sept. 1. In the suit, Texas Medical Providers Performing Abortion Services v. Department of State Health Services Commissioner David Lakey, the group argues that the law violates the equal protection clause by “subjecting [women] to paternalistic ‘protections’ not imposed on men” and the First Amendment rights of doctors by “forcing physicians to deliver politically-motivated communications” to their patients.

In the meantime, Spear says the state has yet to offer directives on how the law should be enforced.

Oklahoma is the only other state in the country where a sonogram is required before an abortion. However, that same law is also facing a legal battle.

Web resources:

Planned Parenthood of the Texas Capital Region's information on abortion.

Texas Department of State Health Services "Woman's Right to Know" page.

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