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Texas Sonogram Law Part of Record-Breaking Year

January 20, 2012

AUSTIN, Texas – This Sunday marks the anniversary of Roe v. Wade - the U.S. Supreme Court decision that legalized abortion. However, after 39 years it's becoming more and more difficult for women – in Texas and around the country – to receive the procedure.

According to a report from the Guttmacher Institute, the number of newly-enacted abortion restrictions reached a record high in 2011. The study found 24 states passed a total of 92 restrictions - including Texas' controversial sonogram requirement, which was recently upheld by a federal appeals court.

The Reverend Rebecca Turner, executive director of Faith Aloud, sees the restrictions as part of an overall effort to take the United States back to the days when abortion was illegal.

"Wherever abortion is illegal, women die from illegal abortions, and we don't want to see that return to the United States. That's taking us to the status of a third-world nation."

While very few women die from abortions in the U.S., the Guttmacher Institute report says every year, 70,000 women around the world die from unsafe abortions.

Groups that support abortion restrictions say their aim is to protect unborn children. Some are holding rallies this week to call for an end to legal abortion. But Joe Pojman, executive director of the Texas Alliance for Life, insists that the mounting number of restrictions are not attempts to undercut Roe v. Wade, a decision he says has effectively "tied the hands" of state legislators.

"The states cannot ban abortion. That's the reality. However, states do have a right - and a responsibility - to make sure that women considering abortion have all the information they need to have an informed decision."

A group of Texas doctors is asking a federal judge in Austin today (Friday) to stop enforcement of the new state law, which requires women to wait 24 hours after doctors share the results of fetal sonograms or ultrasounds before receiving abortions. The lawsuit says it's unconstitutional to mandate such communication.

Most experts agree the U.S. abortion rate has leveled off or decreased in recent years, although Rev. Turner doesn't think that's necessarily because of new restrictions.

"In the countries where abortion is the most strictly regulated, there are actually the most abortions. In the countries where it's the most loosely regulated, there are the fewest number of abortions."

For example, the Guttmacher report found relatively low abortion rates throughout Western Europe, where the procedure is legal and widely available. Turner says that makes sense because where abortions are legal, contraceptives tend to be readily available as well, lowering the number of unwanted pregnancies.

Peter Malof, Public News Service - TX