Texas Bill Amending Woman’s Right to Know Act to Include Mandatory Sonogram and Waiting Period (HB 15)
This law was last updated on Nov 7, 2013
HB 15 amends the Woman’s Right to Know Act (HB 15/SB 835), passed in 2003 and codified at section 171.001, et seq. of the Texas Health and Safety Code.
Sonogram Requirement/Waiting Period
HB 15 requires a doctor to perform a sonogram on a woman seeking an abortion at least 24 hours prior to performing the abortion, unless the woman lives 100 or more miles from the closest abortion provider in which case the sonogram must be performed at least two hours prior to the abortion.
The bill also requires the physician performing the abortion to (1) display the sonogram images to the pregnant woman; (2) provide a verbal explanation of the sonogram images, including descriptions of the fetus, its heart activity, and its internal organs; and (3) provide an opportunity for the pregnant woman to hear the fetal heartbeat as well as an oral explanation of it.
The bill authorizes a woman to choose not to view the sonogram images or listen to the fetal heartbeat.
The bill authorizes a woman to choose not to receive the verbal explanation of the sonogram under the following circumstances:
- if the pregnancy is a result of sexual assault, incest, or other violation of the Penal Code that has been reported to law enforcement authorities or that has not been reported because she reasonably believes that to do so would put her at risk of retaliation resulting in serious bodily injury;
- if the woman is a minor and obtaining an abortion in accordance with judicial bypass procedures; or
- if the fetus has an “irreversible medical condition or abnormality” as medically documented in the woman’s medical file.
Medical Emergency Exception
The bill exempts abortion procedures from these provisions in the case of a medical emergency, meaning a life-threatening physical condition aggravated by, caused by, or arising from a pregnancy that, as certified by a physician, places the woman in danger of death or a serious risk of substantial impairment of a major bodily function unless an abortion is performed. A physician who performs an abortion in a medical emergency must include a statement certifying the nature of the emergency in the patient’s records and certify to the Department of Health the specific medical condition that constituted the emergency within 30 days of the date the abortion was performed.
The bill requires the Department of State Health Services to publish a comprehensive list of agencies in Texas that offer sonograms at no cost to the pregnant woman and do not affiliate with, refer to or provide abortion related services.
Abortion providers who fail to comply with the law risk a $10,000 fine and loss of their license.
Prior to its amendment, the Texas Woman’s Right to Know Act already required that doctors inform women seeking abortion of, among other things, the following:
- the particular medical risks associated with the particular abortion procedure to be employed, including, when medically accurate:
- (i) the risks of infection and hemorrhage;
- (ii) the potential danger to a subsequent pregnancy and of infertility; and
- (iii) the possibility of increased risk of breast cancer following an induced abortion and the natural protective effect of a completed pregnancy in avoiding breast cancer;
An increase in risk of breast cancer is not supported by medical research. In fact, a new study confirms that there is no causative link between abortion and breast cancer. Given that the informed consent law requires such information to be provided “when medically accurate,” ostensibly, an abortion provider would not be required to inform a woman that abortion increases the risk of breast cancer. Nevertheless, the law is vague at best.
In 2011, a group of abortion providers challenged HB 15. The Fifth Circuit reversed district court Judge Sam Sparks’s temporary order blocking the law, finding that the law was constitutional. Writing for the three-judge panel of the Fifth Circuit, then Chief Judge Edith Jones wrote “the required disclosures of a sonogram, the fetal heartbeat, and their medical descriptions are the epitome of truthful, non-misleading information. They are not different in kind, although more graphic and scientifically up-to-date, than the disclosures discussed in [Planned Parenthood v. Casey.]” (See Texas Medical Providers Performing Abortion Services, v. Lakey.)