A panel of federal appellate judges has authorized Texas officials to enforce a controversial abortion sonogram law while its constitutionality is being challenged in court.
In an opinion, the judges said the measure's opponents "failed to demonstrate constitutional flaws" in the measure, which they said was "fatal" to their effort to prevent it from taking effect.
The abortion sonogram law, which lawmakers passed last legislative session, requires doctors to perform sonograms and describe what they see, including the size of the fetus and the length of its limbs. The measure has been in court almost since it passed, with opponents arguing it violates doctors' First Amendment rights by forcing them to disclose information that isn't medically necessary and that the woman may not want to hear.
The Fifth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals overturned Austin District Judge Sam Sparks' temporary order this morning, preventing the sonogram measure from taking effect.
According to the appellate judges' opinion, "the required disclosures of a sonogram, the fetal heartbeat, and their medical descriptions are the epitome of truthful, non-misleading information."
The ruling "upholds the will of the people of Texas," Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott said in a prepared statement.
“Today’s Fifth Circuit decision recognizes that the Texas sonogram law falls well within the state’s authority to regulate abortions and require informed consent from patients before they undergo an abortion procedure,” Abbott added.
Gov. Rick Perry also praised today's ruling, calling it “a victory for all who stand in defense of life."
He added that the sonogram measure "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-ending decision."
Peter J. Durkin, president and CEO of Planned Parenthood Gulf Coast, expressed disappointment with the ruling, saying it "allows Texas politicians to shame and demean women and tell doctors how to practice medicine."
Durkin added that "every Texan should be outraged that politicians are interfering with their most private medical decisions."