9/2/2011 11:01 AM
U.S. District Judge Sam Sparks enjoined large portions of the state’s law requiring that physicians make available a sonogram to a mother prior to performing an abortion on her. Sparks’s opinion can be read here
Sparks argued that several sections of the law were unconstitutionally vague and prohibited their enforcement. First, Sparks entered an order allowing one physician in a multi-doctor practice to perform the abortion and another to provide the sonogram. Second, he found that the exceptions – allowing women to decline to view the sonogram – do not provide sufficient protection to the physician if an abortion is later performed, and enjoined the enforcement of those sections. He also struck down a provision requiring physicians to provide materials on paternity and child support to a woman who chooses to have the child.
He also states that many of the requirements in the sonogram bill are compelled speech in violation of the First Amendment to the United States Constitution. The state argues that the U.S. Supreme Court’s 1992 opinion in Planned Parenthood of Southeastern Pennsylvania v. Casey – where the court upheld Pennsylvania’s informed consent statute – forecloses this argument. Sparks disagreed, noting that the Texas law requires a lot more than the challenged law in the Pennsylvania case.
The attorney general filed an immediate appeal. Most of the state’s top elected officials issued statements blasting the ruling.
“Every life lost to abortion is a tragedy and today’s ruling is a great disappointment to all Texans who stand in defense of life, said Gov. Rick Perry. “This important sonogram legislation 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-changing decision. I have full confidence in Attorney General Abbott’s efforts to appeal this decision as he defends the laws enacted by the Texas Legislature.”
“This ruling is a tragic setback for Texans who care deeply about the rights of the unborn and the legislators who worked in a bipartisan way to get this bill passed into law,” said Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst. I will work with Attorney General Abbott to appeal this ruling.”
"I am not surprised by this decision," said the bill’s sponsor, Sen. Dan Patrick. "It is clear to me, from the inflammatory language in the order, that Judge Sparks was predisposed to this decision … The most tragic result of Sparks' decision is that hundreds of innocent lives will be lost every day because women continue to be denied medical information that they have a right to know. I am confident that this legislation will ultimately be held constitutional by the courts."
Patrick tried to intervene in the case and file an amicus brief, but Sparks ruled that out of order.
In fact, Sparks refusal to allow amicus briefs from legislators – a frequent practice in federal cases – infuriated many pro-lifers.
He also denied an attempt by Allan E. Parker, Jr. of the Justice Foundation to file an amicus brief on behalf of women hurt by abortions. He did so in an order that takes several personal and professional potshots at Parker, an accomplished attorney with decades of experience.
In a footnote to his opinion Sparks takes what can only be interpreted as a political attack on several of the politicians who wrote the sonogram law. “It is ironic that many of the same people who zealously defend the state’s righteous duty to become intimately involved in a woman’s decision to get an abortion are also positively scandalized at the government’s gross overreaching in the area of health care,” wrote Sparks on page 20 of the opinion.
The case now moves to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit.