You Can Never Have Too Many Sonograms

Sonogram-before-abortion bill heads to governor's desk

The controversial ultrasound-before-abortion bill (House Bill 15) is on its way to Gov. Rick Perry, who undoubtedly will sign it the minute it hits his desk. The guv lauded the state Senate for its final passage of the measure (on a 21-10 vote) on May 3, calling it an "admirable action" that represents a "critical step in our efforts to protect life." The bill would require women seeking abortion to undergo an ultrasound at least 24 hours before terminating a pregnancy (unless she lives more than 100 miles from the nearest facility – a compromise made to win the "yea" vote of San Antonio Dem Carlos Uresti).

The final bill would allow a woman to refuse to see the sonogram image and hear the fetal heartbeat, but it would require her to listen to a doctor describe the fetal development – unless the woman can certify in writing that her pregnancy was the result of a rape or incest that has been reported to the police or that the fetus has a gross abnormality or irreversible condition that has been previously documented in her medical file. (What exactly would happen to a woman who lies to avoid this description isn't expressly defined in the bill.) Moreover, the bill would allow a doctor to bypass this new component of so-called informed consent only if the woman is facing a medical emergency "aggravated by, caused by, or arising from a pregnancy." In other words, if a pregnant woman were facing life-threatening consequences due to, say, a car accident, the language leaves it unclear whether the circumstance would exempt her doctor from waiting the required 24 hours before terminating the pregnancy.

Because the vast majority of pregnancy terminations occur during the first trimester, most of these required ultrasounds will involve a transvaginal probe, meaning the state would now be requiring an intrusive medical procedure for all women seeking termination. Further, because an ultrasound is typically conducted immediately prior to an abortion in order to give a doctor important information about gestation and condition of the uterus, this bill would seemingly require all women to undergo two such procedures prior to termination. (For background on the legislation, see "Lege Land: A Bill To 'Protect Our Women,'" Feb. 18.)

For more, check out our War on Women's Health page.

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KEYWORDS FOR THIS STORY

ultrasound, abortion, HB 15, Rick Perry, reproductive health, reproductive rights, Legislature, Sid Miller, Dan Patrick

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