Key part of Texas abortion law thrown out

Aug. 31, 2011 at 12:08 AM

AUSTIN, Texas, Aug. 31 (UPI) -- Texas doctors cannot be compelled to display sonogram images and describe fetuses to women seeking abortions, a federal judge said Tuesday.

U.S. District Judge Sam Sparks in Austin ruled that parts of the state's new abortion law are unconstitutional, the Houston Chronicle reported. Sparks said the law -- which also requires doctors to make the fetal heartbeat audible for women -- violates the free speech rights of both doctors and patients.

"It is difficult to avoid the troubling conclusion the Texas Legislature either wants to permanently brand women who choose to get abortions or views these certifications as potential evidence to be used against physicians and women," Sparks said.

Doctors who violated the law could have been fined as much as $10,000 and would have been stripped of their licenses to practice. Sparks suggested the law would have the effect of encouraging competent doctors stop providing abortions.

Gov. Rick Perry, who signed the bill in May and classified it as "emergency" legislation, said he believes Sparks will be reversed. Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott said he appealed immediately.

Sparks let stand the part of the bill that requires women to have sonograms at least 24 hours before an abortion, reduced to 2 hours if they live more than 100 miles from the provider.

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