Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton, joined by 14 other states, filed a friend-of-the-court brief urging the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 6th Circuit to overturn a lower court ruling blocking the state of Kentucky’s abortion informed-consent law. The law requires doctors to conduct an ultrasound and present the results to an expectant mother before she provides consent for an abortion. Doctors are also required to let the mother listen to the heartbeat of her unborn baby.
The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) sued to stop the law on behalf of the only licensed outpatient abortion clinic in Kentucky, which reportedly performs 3,000 abortions a year. The ACLU contends the law violates the First Amendment rights of physicians.
In his brief, Attorney General Paxton asks the 6th Circuit to follow the legal precedent in Planned Parenthood of Southeastern Pennsylvania v. Casey, which held that state laws requiring disclosure of certain information as part of obtaining a patient’s informed consent for abortion procedures do not violate physicians’ freedom of speech.
“Legislation enacted in Kentucky, Texas, and other states ensures that a woman seeking an abortion has all the facts about the life she is carrying, and understands the devastating impact of such a life-ending decision,” Attorney General Paxton said. “We will fight any attempt to block state laws that value and protect the health of the mother and the life of the unborn.”
In 2011, then-state Representative Paxton co-authored and passed House Bill 15, which requires an expectant mother to view a sonogram and hear her unborn child’s heartbeat prior to consenting to an abortion. The Texas Sonogram Law was challenged and upheld in 2012 by the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.
Approximately 29 states – including most of the ones in the multi-state coalition brief supporting Kentucky – have laws requiring a physician to provide certain information to a patient when obtaining informed consent to perform an abortion procedure. The Texas brief notes that the U.S. Supreme Court has repeatedly affirmed a state’s ability to regulate the informed-consent process to ensure that patients can adequately assess the risks and consequences of the abortion procedure, rejecting First Amendment challenges to those laws.
Joining the Texas-led friend-of-the-court brief are Alabama, Arkansas, Indiana, Kansas, Louisiana, Michigan, Missouri, Nebraska, Ohio, Oklahoma, South Carolina, and West Virginia, along with Mississippi Governor Phil Bryant and Maine Governor Paul LePage.
View the brief here.