First Amendment

Judge Blocks Part of Texas Abortion Law; Lawyer Responds to Earlier Benchslap

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A federal judge has blocked key parts of a Texas law that required women seeking abortions to view sonograms of the fetus and listen to the heartbeat.

U.S. District Judge Sam Sparks granted a preliminary injunction on Tuesday, finding the law violates the First Amendment rights of doctors and patients, report Reuters, the New York Times and the Austin American-Statesman. “The act compels physicians to advance an ideological agenda with which they may not agree, regardless of any medical necessity, and irrespective of whether the pregnant women wish to listen,” Sparks wrote.

Last week, Sparks rejected an anti-abortion lawyer’s request to file an amicus brief in the case on behalf of “317 Texas women hurt by abortion,” according to Texas Lawyer’s Tex Parte Blog. In a sternly worded order (PDF), Sparks called the San Antonio lawyer, Allan Parker, “anything but competent.”

“A competent attorney would not have filed this motion in the first place; if he did, he certainly would not have attached exhibits that are both highly prejudicial and legally irrelevant,” Sparks wrote. The judge went on to seal one of the exhibits—which was a picture of an aborted fetus, Parker says.

Above the Law had deemed Sparks’ order the “benchslap of the day.” Parker tells Texas Lawyer that Sparks’ criticism was “hurtful,” but he respects the judge and “he’s entitled to his opinion.”

In an order in a different case, also issued last week, Sparks invited two apparently squabbling members of the bar to attend what he called a “kindergarten party” to learn basic discovery skills.

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