A Modest Compromise on Abortion

Lawmakers reach accord on restricting reproductive rights

It appears lawmakers have hashed out a compromise to the ultrasound-before-abortion bill, which requires most women to undergo an extra ultrasound procedure at least 24 hours prior to undergoing an abortion. The Senate passed a version of the bill, authored by Sen. Dan Patrick, R-Houston, in February; the House followed quickly to pass its version, by Rep. Sid Miller, R-Stephenville, which was decidedly more stringent. Patrick's bill created modest exemptions for victims of rape or incest (if the crime has been reported); the House resisted any such exemptions, leaving the socially conservative members at an impasse. Apparently the problems have been worked out: a woman would still have to undergo the procedure (most often in the earliest stages of pregnancy, when the vast majority of abortions are performed, this requires the invasive transvaginal method, instead of the so-called noninvasive "jelly-on-the-belly" method), and would be required to view the image, hear the heartbeat, and listen to a simultaneous description of fetal development verbalized by her doctor or licensed sonographer – unless she can attest that she has a reason to be exempted, such as having reported rape or incest, or that her fetus has a previously diagnosed gross and fatal abnormality. The latest version of the bill also contains an exemption for any medical emergency as defined by the doctor, a provision the House had resisted in its original version, which instead included a limited concession to emergencies "caused by or arising from a pregnancy itself." Exactly how the exemptions apply, when they should be presented to a medical provider, and how they should be proven, isn't entirely clear.

To get the buy-in needed to move the bill to final passage, Senate lawmakers carved out a new exemption for women living in rural counties at the behest of Sen. Carlos Uresti, D-San Antonio. Under the bill, however, all other women will still likely have to undergo another ultrasound in addition to the one already required by standard medical practice before any termination to convince state politicians that they are fully informed about the consequences of their actions.

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KEYWORDS FOR THIS STORY

abortion, 82nd Legislature, reproductive rights, women's health, Dan Patrick, Sid Miller, Rick Perry, Carlos Uresti

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