"Rape by the State"? Court: Texas Can Force Doctors to Deliver Intrusive Vaginal Ultrasound to Abortion Seekers

This is bad news. One of the worst laws in the "war on women," Texas's mandatory ultrasound law, currently being fought in the courts has gotten the go-ahead from an appeals court--which means Texas doctors may now be forced to deliver particularly invasive ultrasounds and read out information to abortion-seeking patients, no matter what they themselves or their patients want.

From Texas Monthly, a few minutes ago:

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 previous decision on the matter was overturned. That presiding judge issued a stay injoining the law from taking effect, finding parts of it unconstitutional. Via the Houston Chronicle, in August,

U.S. District Judge Sam Sparks said late Tuesday that the law, which was to take effect Thursday, violates the free speech rights of doctors and patients. He ordered that the state cannot impose penalties against doctors who don't fulfill its requirements.

"The Act's onerous requirements will surely dissuade or prevent many competent doctors from performing abortions, making it significantly more difficult for pregnant women to obtain abortions," wrote Sparks, granting the temporary injunction. "Forcing pregnant women to receive medical treatment from less-skilled providers certainly seems to be at odds with 'protecting the physical and psychological health and well-being of pregnant women,' one of the Act's stated purposes."

Back in the spring when the bill first showed up, Andrea Grimes offered a scathing indictment of the Texas legislature's disregard for women:

This week, anti-choice Texas legislators finally showed their cards. Perhaps they didn't mean to--after all, it's hard to watch your hand when you and your buddies are busy patting each other on the back for all your hard work legislating against women. During Monday's smug, self-congratulating second reading of House Bill 15 (in Texas, bills are "read" three times before they're passed), Dan Patrick, a Republican talk radio host from Houston, may not have realized how much he slipped when he said he liked the bill because of its power in "addressing the needs of the members in the House and the Senate."

One of my Twitter friends described mandating this procedure as "rape by the state." She's sadly close to the mark.

Here's why. In May Houston Chronicle writer Beverly McPhail described the procedure that as of today, may have to be enforced (emphases mine):

According to the Guttmacher Institute, 88 percent of abortions occur during the first 12 weeks of pregnancy. Because the fetus is so small at this stage, traditional ultrasounds performed through the abdominal wall, "jelly on the belly," often cannot produce a clear image. Therefore, a transvaginal probe is most often necessary, especially up to 10 weeks to 12 weeks of pregnancy. The probe is inserted into the vagina, sending sound waves to reflect off body structures to produce an image of the fetus. Under this new law, a woman's vagina will be penetrated without an opportunity for her to refuse due to coercion from the so-called "public servants" who passed and signed this bill into law.

AlterNet / By Sarah Seltzer

Posted at January 10, 2012, 7:00am

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