As Gov. Rick Perry touted Texas' new law that requires women seeking abortions to have a sonogram, a national abortion-rights group worked to prepare a legal challenge to what they call one of the most restrictive laws in the country.
Surrounded by supporters, Perry said Tuesday during a ceremonial signing of the bill that Texas women will now have information they need if they decide to end their pregnancies.
"Every life lost to abortion is a tragedy we all must work together to prevent," said Perry, who had designated the measure an "emergency" item this session. "This important bill will ensure that every Texas woman seeking an abortion has all the facts about the life she is carrying and understands the devastating impact of such a life-changing decision."
The law, which takes effect Sept. 1, requires doctors to make the image of the fetus, and the fetal heartbeat, available to a woman, although she may decline to see or hear it.
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Doctors must describe the fetus, noting the size and condition of limbs and organs. The law also requires women to wait 24 hours after the sonogram to have an abortion, unless they live more than 100 miles from an abortion provider. In that case, they have to wait two hours.
Exceptions are allowed in emergencies, in cases of incest or rape, or if there are fetal abnormalities.
Bebe Anderson, senior counsel for the Center for Reproductive Rights in New York, said her group is preparing to file a lawsuit in Texas to challenge the law.
"One of the big problems is the way it forces women to hear or see information when they have chosen not to do that," Anderson said. "It gets the government in between the doctor and the patient in a totally inappropriate way."
"Women are finally going to get the information they deserve before making a decision on an issue that can never be reversed," said state Sen. Dan Patrick, R-Houston, who helped carry the bill. "I believe at least 1 out of 5 women may decide to keep the baby or put it up for adoption."
Patrick, who said this law is "the beginning of the end for abortion," believes that up to 15,000 lives could be saved each year. Rep. Diane Patrick, R-Arlington, was among those at Tuesday's bill signing, as was Kyleen Wright, who has worked for years to see this measure become law.
"We are thrilled Texas women considering abortion finally have all the information every other surgical patient takes for granted," said Wright, president of the Arlington-based Texans for Life Coalition, who received one of the pens that Perry used during the ceremony. "The window to the womb is forever open and there is no going back."
"Once again, Rick Perry has chosen to put the health of his political career ahead of the health of Texas women," said Sara Cleveland, executive director of the NARAL Pro-Choice Texas group. "Our state is facing a record budget shortfall ... yet interfering in women's health is what Perry has chosen to declare an 'emergency' and focus his time and resources on. He should be embarrassed and deeply ashamed of his actions."
For John McPaul, a 75-year-old Arlington retiree, this bill is simply a "travesty."
"Men control their reproductive systems," he said. "This law further takes women's control of their reproductive systems and gives it to the state of Texas.
"This is a surefire loser for the women of Texas."
Staff writer Dave Montgomery contributed to this report.
Anna M. Tinsley, 817-390-7610