AUSTIN, Texas — A federal appeals court cleared the way Friday for the immediate enforcement of a new abortion law in Texas requiring doctors to conduct a sonogram before the procedure.
Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott had asked the three-judge panel to cut short the typical three-week waiting period between when the court issues a ruling and when it is implemented. The judges lifted a temporary stay issued by a district court judge who had found the new law potentially unconstitutional.
The law requires doctors to conduct a sonogram before performing an abortion, to show the woman the image, to play the fetal heartbeat aloud and describe the features of the fetus at least 24 hours before the abortion. There are exceptions for case of rape, incest, fetal deformities and for women who have to travel great distances to reach a doctor.
Friday's order by the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals clears the way for the Texas Department of State Health Services to issue rules for complying with the law and to prosecute doctors who do not obey it.
The appeals court had issued an opinion on Tuesday disagreeing with the District Court Judge Sam Sparks, who is hearing arguments next week on the overall constitutionality of the requirement. The chief Judge, Edith Jones, found the objections brought by the Center for Reproductive Rights insufficient to block enforcement of the law pending a final outcome of Sparks' trial.
The most recent order does not give time for the center to appeal Jones' decision, which under normal circumstances, would not have gone into effect until Jan. 31.