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Meet Sam Sparks

The colorful Texas judge who keeps upholding abortion rights

Meet Sam Sparks, the colorful Texas judge who keeps upholding abortion rights

This segment originally aired Feb. 22, 2017, on VICE News Tonight on HBO. 

The state legislature in Texas is known for trying to roll back reproductive rights. And one of its biggest hurdles is a federal judge named Sam Sparks, who keeps ruling against limiting access to abortion.

“When the Supreme Court makes a social decision that the country’s not ready for, you’re going to have litigation for 50 or 60 years,” he said, referring to the landmark 1973 case Roe v. Wade.

Most recently, the Texas Department of Health and Human Services tried to withhold funding to Planned Parenthood in the state. Sparks — appointed to the United States District Court for the Western District of Texas by George W. Bush in 1991— ruled to temporarily block the effort last Tuesday.

In January, Sparks prevented a law that required abortion clinics to bury or cremate fetal remains from abortions or miscarriages. And in 2011, he ruled against a bill to force women to get an ultrasound 24 hours before getting an abortion.

VICE News sat down with the federal judge about his legal approach and why, 44 years after Roe v. Wade, these cases keep landing in his courtroom.

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