Appeals Court Won't Rehear Attempt Trying to Overturn Texas's New Sonogram Law

In news that should make Rick Perry tingly all over, the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals issued an order today denying the Center For Reproductive Rights' request for a new hearing in their suit against Texas's new sonogram law. The CRR had previously requested that the court hear the case en banc, meaning that all the active judges, rather than the three-judge panel who originally made the ruling, would deliberate on the case. The two-page order issued today denies that request, saying "no member of the panel nor judge in regular active service of the court" had requested a new hearing.

Last week, Judge Sam Sparks, the Austin judge who originally issued a temporary restraining order against the law, sending it to the appeals court, ruled that he was unable to grant the CRR's request for a permanent injunction. He wrote that he couldn't grant the injunction because of the 5th Circuit's decision to uphold the law. In the process, though, the judge managed to telegraph that he was plenty pissed about the whole thing, and that he believes the new law strips doctors of their right to free speech -- and women of their rights.

"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. "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."

"The concept that the government may make puppets out of doctors, provided it does not step on their patients' rights, is not one this Court believes is consistent with the Constitution, in the abortion context or otherwise."

Regardless, he said, he was bound to defer to the panel's decision and uphold the law. We're anticipating a jubilant statement from the governor's office at any moment, which we'll append accordingly. Sparks Order Denying Permanent InjunctionSonogram Law Appeal Rehearing Denied

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Anna Merlan
Contact: Anna Merlan