This Thursday marks the beginning of Texas’ new fiscal year, and with it a slew of conservative legislation signed by Gov. Rick Perry (R) takes effect.
Among those laws is the highly controversial sonogram law Perry signed in May, forcing pregnant women seeking abortions to undergo a medically unnecessary ultrasound at least 24 hours before an abortion and to hear a description of the fetus:
One new law requires a doctor to attempt to show a woman seeking an abortion a sonogram of the fetus, to describe the image and to provide the sound of the fetal heartbeat before the procedure. Federal Judge Sam Sparks is expected to rule before Thursday on a challenge to the law by the Center for Reproductive Rights.
“This law is intrusive, patronizing to women and unconstitutional,” said Julie Rikelman, the center’s lead attorney on the case. She said patients should be given only the information and medical tests appropriate for the circumstances and that a doctor should not have to act as a “government agent.”
The sonogram law is a transparent attempt by anti-abortion activists to chip away at women’s constitutional right to end a pregnancy. The Senate sponsor of the bill, Dan Patrick (R) hailed it as “the beginning of the end for abortions,” and said he was so proud that he was “inspired to wear my cowboy hat” when Perry signed the bill.
Perry, a self-described “small government” conservative, has no problem inserting the government between women and their doctors. Facing the state’s worst budget crisis in modern history, he dubbed the sonogram bill an “emergency priority” that allowed the legislature to expedite its passage. Texas conservatives initially refused to include exceptions for cases of rape, incest, and fetal abnormality in the bill.
In the last legislative session, Perry also approved drastic cuts of $74 million to family planning services in Texas, which experts say will result in tens of thousands of additional unwanted pregnancies in coming years. The cuts could also result in 180,000 Texans losing access to cancer screenings and basic contraception.