Judge strikes down parts of Texas sonogram law


A federal judge on Tuesday blocked key provisions of Texas’ new law requiring a doctor to perform a sonogram before an abortion, ruling the measure violates the free speech rights of both doctors and patients.

U.S. District Judge Sam Sparks upheld the requirement that sonograms be performed, but struck down the provisions requiring doctors to describe the images to their patients and requiring women to hear the descriptions.

The law made exceptions for women who were willing to sign statements saying they were pregnant as a result of rape or incest or that their fetus had an irreversible abnormality. Sparks questioned whether the Republican-controlled Texas Legislature was trying to “permanently brand” women who are victims of sexual assault.

The law — one of dozens of anti-abortion measures that advanced through state capitals across the United States this year — takes effect Thursday. The New York-based Center for Reproductive Rights had sued to block it.

Supporters argued the law ensures women fully understand what an abortion entails and said some women have regretted having abortions. They said the law would lead to fewer abortions in Texas. About 81,000 abortions are performed every year in Texas.

Opponents argued that requiring doctors to describe a fetus’ features would force them to say things against their will and would violate medical ethics requiring doctors to respect a patient’s autonomy and act in the patient’s best interest.

The Texas Medical Association opposed the law because it dictated when a doctor must perform a procedure and how the doctor must deal with a patient. While a pre-abortion ultrasound is routine, it is not considered medically necessary.

Sparks wrote that forcing doctors to discuss the results with a patient who may not want to listen “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.”

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20 responses to “Judge strikes down parts of Texas sonogram law”

  1. {Sparks wrote that forcing doctors to discuss the results with a patient who may not want to listen “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.”}

    What a mouthful of BS! This legislation was born of the experience of thousands of post-abortive women who have come forward to share their stories of having been lied to by abortionists who have told them in the 4th, 8th, 12th week of pregnancy that,

    “It’s just a blob of cells. It’s just tissue.”

    (There is a beating heart at week three!)

    These women learned to their utter horror later on that they had well-formed babies who were pulled apart, literally, limb-by-limb. There is no shortage of women who simply know nothing about their own bodies, who can’t even tell physicians about the regularity of their menstrual cycles, let alone being in possession of the most rudimentary information of embryonic development.

    Likewise, there is no shortage of abortion practitioners who feed on such ignorance in women who are fearful and confused.

    This legislation was aimed at the lack of oversight in the abortion industry. It was about guaranteeing fully informed consent. When last I checked, fully informed consent is the baseline requirement before any surgical procedure is performed.

    It has nothing to do with ideology on the part of pro-lifers, and everything to do with the ideology of abortionists who are the ONLY group of practitioners who get a pass on fully informed consent.

  2. It had nothing to do with informed consent. It was a clear and openly stated intent to try to frighten and humiliate women into not having abortions. To manipulate women at an already difficult time is reprehensible. To do so by using the power of the state to violate the trust of a patient-physician relationship is grotesque.

  3. Kenneth,

    I realize that to folks such as yourself, the revelation of the human identity and developmental status of the child of the womb is a dastardly, low-down, and despicable thing to do.

    I realize that you obviously support an industry that lies to and manipulates women on a daily basis.

    I realize that you might not realize that most abortionists are not even trained in Ob/Gyn, but are practitioners that washed out of general practice, pulmonology, etc. They are the bottom of the barrel, pariahs among decent doctors.

    However, your handwaving arguments cannot change the reality that abortion is the one procedure, the one area of medicine that has received zero oversight, minimal sanctions of its butchers, and where informed consent is a joke.

    The power of the state forces cardiologists to give fully informed consent to patients and their families after a mayocardial infarct (also a “difficult” time). They must explain why they are opting for stenting as opposed to bypass. Why a fully cracked chest as opposed to minimally invasive surgery, etc…

    Yes, Kenneth, the state is “grotesque” in every other area of medicine, mandating that physicians fully inform patients of the risks inherent in what they do. Only in abortion does the state look the other way at lies of omission and commission.

  4. The law was nearly hopeless. You can’s make converts (and the movement from accepting abortion to being pro-life is akin to conversion) by beating someone in an argument. Especially if your chief arguer (the health professional) is lukewarm to begin with.

    If only the political pro-life movement could focus on hearts, not minds.

    People in enough trouble to contemplate abortion are not usually dealing with obstacles that can be overcome with reason: abusive partners, poverty, unloving families, or an overwhelming sense of desperation.

    And those who have none of the above symptoms and who are just afraid of a disruption in their neat little lives aren’t going to be convinced by a cloudy image on a B&W screen.

  5. Kenneth,
    This is not about scare tactics or humiliation or manipulating women…once again we are trying to do the impossible… legislate morality.

    I don’t know what the answer is…

  6. There is simply no pleasing those who support abortion on request. If you try to address abortion as a medical procedure by regulating clinical practice, you are told that abortion is actually a social issue. If you try to address the social issues by setting up broad-based help centers for women in distress, you are told that you are masquerading as a physician and must advertise the medical services you do not perform. Bottom line: leave Dr. Gosnell and his buddies alone!

  7. This was a clear attempt to use state power to conscript doctors into the abortion fight. The judge wisely called them on it. Doctor-patient trust is an ancient concept. At the core of it is the promise that your doctor is YOUR advocate.

    For medicine to work patients leave themselves vulnerable before their doctors in a way unlike any other human relationship. There has to be absolute trust that your doctor is working on your behalf, not some third party. This law had nothing to do with “regulating the medical industry” or “informed consent.” It was an attempt to make doctors manipulate their patients into specific medical decisions which were in the interest of a third party, not the patient.

    This would be unthinkable in any other context. If your HMO decided it didn’t want to pay for an expensive but effective cancer treatment, would you accept them handing your doctor an “informed consent” script designed to scare you out of the treatment? Let’s say you believe in the Catholic doctrine on end-of-life care and the state decides it needs more people to pull the plug or even volunteer for euthanasia. Would it be OK for the state to make your doctor try to manipulate you into the state’s preference through “informed consent” of all the horrible things that could happen if you decide to live out your natural life. Of course not. The lot of you would march on Washington with nail-filled two by fours to stop that if it ever came up.

    Most medical professionals do strive for informed consent, ant it is an area which is properly regulated by licensing boards, civil courts etc. It’s also a core concept in medical malpractice litigation, so you can bet doctors have a very keen interest in getting informed consent squared away.

    Another aspect to this is the concept of adult competence. Are their women who didn’t fully understand the procedure and/or later regretted it? Of course, but the law assumes that a grown-up, even a young one, with normal mental faculties is competent to make decisions on their own behalf. They have the tools to weigh the risks of a medical procedure and to demand more details from a doctor before signing anything. In this day and age, anyone with a degree of education and technical sophistication can become as knowledgeable as their doctors on specific topics without ever leaving home.

    In the case of adults whose reasoning is impaired by dementia, severe Down Syndrome etc., we appoint another adult relative or the state to act in a parental role to try to decide what’s best for them. This law proposed to appoint the state as a parental figure for all women on the general assumption that they are, as a class of people, not competent to make this one medical decision for themselves.

    That is a very scary path to go down. If the state gets a pass to declare normal adults incompetent whenever it wants, you can bet they will use that power against you as readily as abortion patients. Home schooling parents could easily find their kids in the care of a new “state advocate,” or, citing my example about end of life care above, your medical power of attorney over mom or dad could be usurped by the state to help them come to the “right” decision.

  8. Kenneth, deciding against having an abortion is like . . . what? Like dying of a curable cancer? Like taking poison to end your life? Like having your homeschooled youngster dragged off by goons from the teachers’ union? No, it’s not like any of those things–not even remotely. Why not? Because good does NOT equal evil except in minds utterly beclouded by the ethical relativism of a godless age.

  9. Gerard, I agree with your argument, but I would point out that lots of doctors have problems with “informed consent.” I certainly would never have agreed to a non-emergency c-section if I had known about the long-term risks of abdominal adhesions. Heck I would never have consented if I had known about the post-op drugs! Or the well-known case where a hospital announced that they were doing a study on the reasons for episiotomies, and instantly the rate went from 95% to 50% — apparently it was novel to them that there were people who thought that a doctor should have an actual reason before doing one.

    And these guys aren’t the bottom-of-the-barrel scumbags where you find most of your abortionists.

  10. I am not arguing here for or against the moral implications of the choice to have an abortion. I am simply saying that doctors are not someone else’s foot soldiers in this fight and the space of the doctor-patient relationship is never a legitimate battlefield. One can always justify the intrusion, as Texas did, on the theory that abortion stands apart from all other justifications, but you can bet your last dime that governments allowed to assume abusive powers will ALWAYS find a reason to justify it in other contexts.

  11. Gerard and cathf, let’s at least do each other the honor of dropping the charade that this is about improving informed consent or the quality of medical care. It’s about trying to regulate abortion out of existence by any means which might be able to squeak around the Roe decision. Not even the sponsors of the law deny that.

    I don’ t know whether or not abortionists are the “bottom of the barrel” of their profession or whether their informed consent practices are any worse as a general matter than other doctors. But you and I know full well that isnt’ the issue. We could restrict abortions to the practices of the top 1% of med schools and implement programs to make their informed consent procedures the best in the industry. That’s not what you, or anyone in the pro-life movement wants, ultimately.

  12. kenneth , you write, “For medicine to work patients leave themselves vulnerable before their doctors in a way unlike any other human relationship. There has to be absolute trust that your doctor is working on your behalf, not some third party.” True enough. But where did you ever get the ridiculous idea that the abortionists are working on their patients’ behalf? Or for that matter that they are even the patients’ doctor in the way that a primary care physician is?

    Read, “unPlanned” by Abby Johnson, and you’ll realize how phony are the crocodile tears for the doctor-patient relationship are that the abortionists and their judicial enablers shed.

    Of course we’d like to see abortion made illegal (with possible exceptions for the life of the mother and rape), but that doesn’t change the validity of legislation which compels doctors to give their patients facts which the patients are likely to find significant. I don’t understand why anyone without a financial interest in it would prefer to keep women in the dark and run them through the abortion mill.

  13. Kenneth,

    You make some powerful presumption when you say to drop the charade about informed consent. It’s not a charade.

    Of course I’m working to end abortion. What you fail to see is that abortion does not exist in some moral or ethical vacuum. Abortion is the inflamed boil on the buttocks of the medical community, and it festers and corrupts.

    Informed consent for women is vital, and these abortionists who lie, outright lie, would never get away with that in any other field. As for your assertion:

    “Most medical professionals do strive for informed consent, ant it is an area which is properly regulated by licensing boards, civil courts etc. It’s also a core concept in medical malpractice litigation, so you can bet doctors have a very keen interest in getting informed consent squared away.”

    There is no governing body for abortionists, as one does not need to be an Ob/Gyn. There is no fellowship in an established academy for abortionists that can be lost.

    Women are lied to and manipulated by abortionists every day, in every state, thousands of times a day. This isn’t healthcare, and it’s a far cry from the feminist ideals that undergird Roe v Wade.

    No, Kenneth, there is no pretense here. There is a serious and concerted effort to excise a metastatic cancer form the body of medical professionalism. That this judge reinforced the only glaring exception to informed consent shows us exactly who the rabid idealogues are. Women deserve better.

  14. The relationship between an abortion provider and a patient is absolutely a doctor-patient relationship, and one subject to all the usual safeguards. For good or ill, abortion is, at present, a legal medical procedure. The decision whether and how to undergo such a procedure is the same (from a medical, not moral) standpoint as any other. The patient has to be able to trust 100% that the doctor is giving them the best advice they know how to give from their medical expertise. It is not to advance the personal or political agendas of some politician who feels he has the wisdom to be her surrogate parent in the matter.

    It is patently absurd to paint this as a healthcare quality law. There is, so far as I know, zero scientific data which demonstrates that the abortion industry is systematically deceiving women into abortions or otherwise violating general professional standards. If you have any such studies – real studies by peer-reviewed mainstream medical journals, by all means, bring them forward. A collection of anecdotal horror stories collected by partisan organizations is not data, nor a basis for legislative regulations.

    It is equally absurd to contend that this law is about helping women to make “fully informed” decisions. The stated and obvious object is to try to convert them to your moral view of abortion. It is intended to try to get women to make the decision based solely on emotional grounds, not reasoned decisions.

    A sonogram narrated by a physician tells a patient absolutely nothing about the relative risks and outcomes of an abortion. Unless the patient happens to have a medical background themselves, watching a sonogram conveys no useful information whatsoever. It is an attempt to sway them into your moral and political position and therefore to view the fetus in a way that would supersede all other medical considerations, including their own lives. Again, this is not paranoid supposition on my part. It is what the sponsors of the legislation stated as their intent.

    If this law were truly concerned with “fully informed” consent, we would see many other elements in there. We would expect to see a mandate that doctors inform patients about ALL of the ups and downs of aborting or not. It would include information about the possible risks and disadvantages of carrying a baby to term – medical risks, the enormous financial burden, the virtual guarantee of poverty if they are young, uneducated and unmarried. It would of course also include the medical and emotional downsides of abortion. Would you be willing to sign onto a law that truly provided a “fully” informed consent procedure? I rather doubt it.

  15. I strongly suspect that Deacon Greg invited “Kenneth” to join this forum in order to test the rest of us on his new civility policy.

  16. Agreed, Ron. I’ve always wondered what animates a man to champion the cause of pulling babies apart. We have cancer, Alzheimer’s, etc., yet Kenneth wants babies torn to pieces. He doesn’t get the connection.

  17. No doctor HAS to perform an abortion. If a woman comes to a doctor for that procedure, he or she can deny and refer the woman to another physician.

  18. Their free will is only an illusion, pagansister. It turns out I’m a Lucifer figure sent to test Deacon Greg’s civility policy and to “champion the cause of pulling babies apart.”

    Sort of a gruesome and discordant mandate, I’ll grant you, but in this economy, when someone hires you as the “enemy” to maintain their cosmology, you dance where they tell you….

  19. This is perhaps the only type of medical practice where pretending what’s on the monitor isn’t exactly what it looks like isn’t just asking for legal and licensing trouble.

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