Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Texas's New Abortion Ultrasound Law

In Texas Medical Providers Performing Abortion Services v. Lakey, decided last month, the Court of Appeals upheld Texas’s new abortion ultrasound law, holding that Sections 171.012(a)(4) and 171.0122 were not in conflict in an unconstitutionally vague way.  Section 171.012(a)(4) of the new law lists what the physician must do: have a sonogram performed, display the sonogram images, perform a heart auscultation, and provide verbal explanations of the sonogram images and heart auscultation.  The court noted that the Section specifically does not require the physician to ensure that a woman views the sonogram images or that she listens to the heart auscultation of the fetus or the doctor’s explanations of both.  The court acknowledged that physicians are not responsible for a woman’s choice to refuse to look or listen to the information being provided to her.  The court further stated that Section 171.0122 expressly gives the unconditional right of every pregnant woman to refuse to view the sonogram or hear the fetal heartbeat.      

While it may be possible for a woman to avert her eyes to the sonogram of her fetus by turning away, I imagine it would be practically impossible for a pregnant woman to simply not listen to the heartbeat of her fetus.  Having never been pregnant myself, I can only anticipate the emotional weight that the heartbeat of a woman’s fetus carries, but I assume it is both deep and immense.  Pretending that a woman can simply cover her ears when faced with such a sound shows either ignorance or naivetĂ© on behalf of the court.  And given that a woman cannot truly refuse to listen to the heartbeat of the fetus she carries, that the State would force her to listen to it while it continues to allegedly give every woman a right to choose to have an abortion during her first trimester is cruel.  The act basically insinuates that the woman is murdering what could be her future child by blatantly shoving its heartbeat in her face.  Such State-mandated torture mirrors the actions of protesters who stand outside abortion clinics mocking and tormenting the women who enter and places an undue burden on women exercising their constitutional rights to receive abortions.    

Furthermore, the new law provides an exception for rape and incest victims, although they must certify their status as victims in order to avoid the law’s requirements.  The fact that the law includes this exception shows that even those who wrote it must understand that providing a woman with an abortion need not include forcing her to hear the heartbeat of the fetus inside her.  There’s no medical reason to do so.  There’s no ethical reason to do so.  The proposed law forces physicians to become protesters of abortion by requiring them to persecute women who are simply choosing to exercise a legal right.      

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