Women Seeking Abortion Will Be Shown Image of Unborn Child

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Texan judge allows state to enforce draconian law in deference to anti-abortion lobby

Everything is bigger in Texas. Including, it seems, the degree of influence which the anti-abortion lobby is able to exert over both lawmakers and members of the judiciary.

A federal judge has allowed the state to begin enforcing a high- profile new law which will require physicians who perform terminations to first either show, or describe, an ultrasound image of the unborn child to their patient.

The measure has been introduced at the behest of anti-abortion campaigners, who hold enormous sway over the largely Republican state's legislature. They believe that pregnant women who are familiarised with the appearance of their foetus are less likely to green-light its termination. The law requires physicians to perform an ultrasound on pregnant women, show and describe the image to them, and play sounds of the unborn child's heartbeat. Patients are allowed to decline to view images or listen to the heartbeat; but they must listen to a description of the exam.

Texas has duly acquired the toughest abortion laws in the US. Similar rules have been introduced in Oklahoma and North Carolina, but are currently on hold pending legal challenges.

This week's decision follows a year of legal challenges. An initial lawsuit against the legislation was filed by a coalition of pro-choice physicians last summer. It alleged that the law violated their constitutional right to free speech, since it forced them to become a "mouthpiece" for the state's ideological message. Sam Sparks, a US District Judge from Austin who issued this week's ruling, had originally sided with those physicians, agreeing that the new law did indeed interfere with free speech rights, and was unconstitutional. …