Brace yourself for more crappy news out of Texas. As both Sarah and I have previously written (see here and here), Texas is moving closer and closer to a restrictive abortion law, which will require doctors to perform an ultrasound on women seeking abortions 24 hours prior to the procedure. More specifically, doctors must make the sonogram visible, the heartbeat audible, and describe fetal development. In other words, Texas doctors will be legally required to treat women like unintelligent children incapable of making their own decisions.
The Center for Reproductive Rights (CRR) has been challenging this law from the get-go, but has been met with obstacles every step of the way. Last month, a panel of judges from the U.S. Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals overturned a preliminary injunction blocking key provisions of the law. Now, U.S. District Judge Sam Sparks has decided he can not grant the CRR’s request to permanently halt enforcement. However, it appears that he is as disgruntled with the decision as we are:
“There can be little doubt that [the law] is an attempt by the Texas Legislature to discourage women from exercising their constitutional rights by making it more difficult for caring and competent physicians to perform abortions,” Sparks wrote in his decision today.
He added: “It appears the panel has effectively eviscerated the protections of the First Amendment in the abortion context,” and “in no other medical context does the government go so far in telling doctors what they must, and must not, do.”
At least someone in a judicial capacity gets it!
While it may seem like the CRR’s hands are tied, they aren’t backing down. The Center has filed a petition requesting that all judges on the U.S. Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals rehear the case, rather than a selected panel (as was the case in January). We will be sure to keep you posted on any forthcoming news.
What is particularly worrisome about this law is not only the immediate impact it will have on Texas women, but what it signals for the rest of the country. In a time of zealous anti-choicery, we must do everything we can to protect and uphold the rights enshrined in Roe v. Wade. Without that federal protection, abortion would become entirely a state issue, and this Texas case clearly demonstrates the nose-dive abortion rights would take in that scenario.
I have heard too many times — even from progressive feminists — not to worry, Roe isn’t going anywhere. To that, I say complacency is handing anti-choicers a big, fat victory. GOP front runners in the 2012 presidential election would love nothing more than to chip away at, if not completely overturn, Roe. And unfortunately, they have the power to do that through their ability to appoint federal judges (who serve for life, by the way).
So what can we do? Vote in November, for one thing. Let your pro-choice voice be heard … loud and clear! And take action via CRR’s Trust Texas Women campaign.