Judge Gives Sonogram Law’s Opponents Little Hope
A Texas law passed last year that requires women to undergo a sonogram 24 hours before getting an abortion had another day in court Friday. But the federal judge presiding over the case gave little hope to opponents of the law.
U.S. District Judge Sam Sparks told attorneys representing the Center for Reproductive Rights that “you can’t beat a horse that’s buried.” The Center challenged the law, arguing it is unconstitutionally vague and that it violates doctors’ and patients’ First Amendment rights.
The judge told attorneys his hands are basically tied by last week’s ruling handed down by the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals, which overturned Judge Sparks’ temporary injunction barring state officials from enforcing the law.
“What would you have me do?” Judge Sparks asked both sides’ attorneys several times Friday, considering the Fifth Circuit’s ruling declared the so-called Women’s Right to Know law constitutional.
“We submitted a lot of evidence, which the state has not challenged at all,” said Julie Rikelman, senior staff attorney for the Center for Reproductive Rights. “He could look at that factual record additional information that wasn’t in front of the Fifth Circuit and make factual findings, which we think clearly show that even under the Fifth Circuit standard, it is not a reasonable regulation of medicine.”
Though seemingly skeptical that there was much left for him to decide, Judge Sparks allowed each side to submit written arguments and said he would have something for them later.
“I think he has reason to be skeptical. I don’t think he has an opportunity,” said Joe Pojman, executive director for the nonprofit organization Texas Alliance for Life, which supports the sonogram law.
“During the legislative session, our whole argument is that this raises the standard of care for informed consent for abortion to the level that a patient would expect for any other medical surgical procedure,” Pojman said.
Plaintiffs asked the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals to reconsider its decision overturning the preliminary injunction. If the court decides to do so, the case will move to that panel. In the meantime, both sides await a response from Judge Sparks.