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'We Have No Choice': A Story Of The Texas Sonogram Law

Tuesday marks the 40th anniversary of Roe v. Wade, the Supreme Court decision legalizing abortion. But in some states, access to facilities that perform abortions remains limited.

In part, that stems from another Supreme Court ruling from 20 years ago that let states impose regulations that don't cause an "undue burden" on a woman's abortion rights.

Texas, for instance, requires that a woman seeking an abortion receive a sonogram from the doctor who will be performing the procedure at least 24 hours before the abortion. During the sonogram, the doctor is required to display sonogram images and make the heartbeat audible to the patient.

The law went into effect on Feb. 6, 2012; Carolyn Jones had an abortion two weeks later. It thrust her into the complicated world of abortion politics and led her to write an article in the Texas Observer titled "We Have No Choice: One Woman's Ordeal with Texas' New Sonogram Law."

Following that article's publication, Jones wrote a series for the Observer examining the impact of cuts to family planning services in Texas. Jones reported that since the state Legislature voted in 2011 to cut Texas' family planning program by two-thirds, 146 clinics lost state funds, and more than 60 of those clinics closed.

Jones talks about these cuts with Fresh Air's Terry Gross, and tells the story of her own encounter with the sonogram law.

Pregnant with her second child, Jones went for a routine sonogram and was told by her doctor that he was worried about the shape of her baby's head. A second sonogram that day at a specialist's office revealed a problem that was preventing her son's brain, spine and legs from developing correctly. The specialist warned that if the child made it to term, he would suffer greatly and need a lifetime of care. Jones and her husband decided she would have an abortion.

Although she'd had two sonograms that day, the new Texas law required that she get another, administered by her abortion doctor, and listen to a state-mandated description of the fetus she was about to abort. (Four days after that sonogram, the state issued technical guidelines for its new mandatory sonogram law, indicating that if a fetus has an irreversible medical condition, as Jones' did, the pregnant woman does not have to hear a description of the sonogram.)

In her article, Jones asks: "What good is a law that adds only pain and difficulty to perhaps the most painful and difficult decision a woman can make?"

Jones tells Gross: "The politicians wanted women to have the sonograms so that they can see the life of the child that they are about to end, so it's an entirely ideological justification for why a woman would have to have a sonogram."

A full transcript of this interview will be posted this afternoon.

Copyright 2013 National Public Radio. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

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