Federal Appeals Court Speeds up Enforcement of Texas’ Tough Anti-Abortion Law

January 13, 2012

by Jeremy Leaming

This week the U.S. Supreme Court issued at least a couple of opinions and heard oral argument in another case that deservedly grabbed court-watchers’ attention. The high court’s opinion allowing a Michigan church to fire a teacher for discriminatory reasons, and oral argument in the FCC case involving indecency on television are among the actions that garnered a great deal of notice.

But federal appeals court Judge Edith Jones, writing for a three-judge panel of that court, ruled in favor of one of the country’s most onerous anti-abortion laws. The law, which requires women to undergo an ultrasound and then view images from it, even if they have no interest in doing so, was upheld against a class action challenge lodged by the Center for Reproductive Rights.

Judge Jones, as NARL’s blog for choice, points out has a staunch anti-abortion background. In 1993, the blog noted that Jones, as a member of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit, voted to uphold a Mississippi law requiring “young women seeking abortion care to receive permission from both parents – even if she comes from a home where there is physical or emotional abuse.” And in a 2004 case, Jones wrote, as NARAL’s blog notes, “One may fervently hope that the Court will someday … re-evaluate Roe and Casey [Supreme Court opinions upholding a woman’s constitutional right to abortion] accordingly.”

Earlier this week in Texas Medical Providers Performing Abortion Services v. Lakey, Jones leading the unanimous panel overturned U.S. District Judge Sam Sparks preliminary injunction against the Texas law finding that it likely violated the First Amendment. Sparks wrote, “The Act compels physicians to advance an ideological agenda with which they may not agree, regardless of any medical necessity, and irrespective of whether the pregnant women wish to listen.”

Today at the urging of Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott, the federal appeals court panel sped up the effect of its opinion, saying the stringent anti-abortion could be immediately enforced.

Blasting the Fifth Circuit’s opinion as extreme, the Center for Reproductive Rights said it was mulling an appeal.

“This law reflects the hostility of anti-choice lawmakers to women, their reproductive healthcare providers, and their constitutional rights,” the group’s President and CEO Nancy Northup said in a press statement. “This law, and this decision, inserts government directly into a private decision that must be protected from the intrusion of political ideologues. Anyone concerned with the erosion of our constitutional rights should be profoundly concerned ….”

During a panel discussion at last year’s ACS National Convention on the mandate in the Obama administration’s landmark health care reform law, former U.S. Solicitor General Walter General knocked supporters of state laws that place mandates on physicians to pressure women into forgoing abortions.

Dellinger said, “We hear the talks about government intrusions into health care – that this represents an extraordinary step about liberty. And I just cannot, any longer, refrain from making the observation that it is really ironic and disturbing to hear that liberty lecture come from people talking about [a] government takeover of medical care, many of whom would legislate the imposition upon women of unnecessary waiting periods, government scripted lectures, compulsory sonogram viewings, and government mandated unsafe medical procedures.”