Thursday, September 1, 2011

Texas Reminds You How It Loves Freedom With 673 New Laws That Take Effect Today

Literally hundreds of laws took effect today in Texas, while the most controversial, the law requiring women to receive a fetal sonogram and hear about its results at least 24 hours before an abortion, has been kiboshed by a federal judge. There is a preliminary injunction striking down portions of the law requiring doctors to share and discuss the sonogram with the pregnant woman. Thank you courts!

NPR reports: U.S. District Judge Sam Sparks said in his ruling that requiring a doctor to show women images from the sonogram and the sounds of the fetal heartbeat violates the First Amendment rights of doctors. The ruling also struck down a requirement that allows women to avoid seeing the sonogram images only if they sign a statement that they are pregnant because of sexual assault or incest. The state cannot compel a woman to disclose such private information that she may not even wish to tell police, Sparks ruled. Sparks ruled such disclosure is an attempt by the state to "permanently brand women who choose to get an abortion."

That's what I call justice!

From the Austin Ameican-Statesman, here are the laws most likely to actually affect Texans (editor's notes are mine):

• Newborn hearing screenings: Newborns in small Texas counties often cannot receive hearing tests, which have been offered in larger counties. Senate Bill 229 allows babies born in smaller communities to be screened.
• Spanking: House Bill 359, better known as the spanking bill, lets parents opt their children out of corporal punishment in public schools that allow the practice. Otherwise, spanking is OK. (The major school districts in Central Texas don't allow spanking.) [Editor's note: ONLY THE MAJOR ONES?!!]
• Summer nutrition: SB 89 requires school districts in which at least half the students are eligible for free or reduced-price lunches to provide a summer nutrition program. [Editor's note: There is no such thing as a free lunch.]
• Teen violence: HB 2496 creates a 12-week teen-dating violence prevention program in the courts to educate teens and provide counseling and referrals. If offenders complete the program, they could have their criminal cases dismissed.
• Football helmets: Aimed at preventing concussions, HB 675 requires school districts to replace helmets that are 16 years old or older and to recondition, every two years, helmets that are 10 years old. [Editor's note: when common sense becomes law. Sigh.]
• Internet dating: Requires online dating services to disclose whether criminal history background screenings have been performed on their members. SB 488 also requires online dating services to publish a list and description of their safety measures.
• Cancer drugs: HB 438 requires health insurers to provide coverage for oral medications that fight cancer at the same coverage level as intravenous chemotherapy drugs. [Editor's note: Fuck cancer.]
• Elder care: HB 2903 expands the state-supported Program for All-Inclusive Care for the Elderly, which provides health care and assisted-living services for senior citizens who want to live independently rather than in nursing homes. [Editor's note: All the seniors, who independent, throw your all-inclusive care up at me.]
• Funerals: HB 718 addresses protests at funerals, which have been targeted in recent years by anti-war protesters. The new law prohibits demonstrations during funerals and three hours before and three hours after the service. Under previous law, demonstrations were banned one hour before and after a service. [Editor's note: While I am morally aligned with this law, I wonder how this infringes on First Amendment Rights.]
• Body parts: SB 187 requires more stringent chain-of-custody documentation for the transportation of bodies and body parts. The law was prompted by a 2007 incident in which a truck full of embalmed human heads used for medical training was found on a Texas highway without documentation. [Editor's note: ew.]

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