Center for Reproductive Rights will request rehearing on intrusive Texas ultrasound law

Legal efforts will focus on First Amendment claims, vagueness of law’s requirements

(PRESS RELEASE) The Center for Reproductive Rights announced today that it will petition for a new hearing before the full U.S. Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals in its case against key provisions of a Texas law requiring doctors to force women seeking abortions to view and hear detailed descriptions of their sonograms — even when a woman wishes to refuse and when the physician believes it is inappropriate and unethical to do so. 

On January 10, a panel of three judges on the Fifth Circuit overturned the district court’s preliminary injunction blocking enforcement of the law and reserved jurisdiction over all further appeals in the case.

The petition, which in accordance with court rules will be filed by January 24, will ask the court to rehear the case en banc — in which all judges in the circuit court would hear the case, rather than a selected panel.

The Center also filed a motion seeking to amend the complaint before the Texas district court to focus only on the two claims heard by the Fifth Circuit: 1) Texas law violates the First Amendment rights of physicians because it forces doctors to deliver to their patients speech chosen by politicians to advance an anti-choice agenda; and 2) the law violates physicians’ due process because it subjects them to harsh penalties for failing to comply with the law’s vague requirements. Today’s motion streamlines the case by removing the other claims.

“We are seeking a fuller hearing of the bedrock constitutional rights that the Fifth Circuit panel brushed aside,” said Nancy Northup, president and CEO of the Center for Reproductive Rights. “The district court ruled that this law violated the First Amendment rights of physicians by compelling them to advance an ideological agenda. The full court should affirm that sound decision.

“This battle is not over. We remain steadfastly committed to fighting for the fundamental reproductive rights of Texas women.”
U.S. District Judge Sam Sparks is scheduled to hear oral arguments on Friday, January 20, on the Center’s efforts to secure a permanent injunction against the extreme law’s provisions.

The Center filed a class action in June 2011 against the ultrasound requirements on behalf of Texas medical providers performing abortions and their patients. The Center requested a preliminary injunction shortly thereafter, arguing that the ultrasound requirements violated the First Amendment rights of both the doctor and the patient by forcing physicians to deliver politically-motivated communications to women, even if she declines.

The case, Texas Medical Providers Performing Abortion Services v. Lakey, was filed by the Center for Reproductive Rights along with co-counsel Richard Alan Grigg of Spivey & Grigg, LLP in Austin, Susan L. Hays of Godwin Ronquillo, PC in Dallas, and Alex Lawrence and Jamie A. Levitt of Morrison & Foerster, LLP in New York.