Roundup: Ultrasound Bills Across States Fare Different Fates

Louisiana, Oklahoma legislatures take steps towards requiring women seeking abortions to view ultrasounds and hear a description. Meanwhile South Carolina considers a compromised version of their "ultrasound bill" which wouldn't require an ultrasound at all.

Let’s compare how some of the ultrasound bills being debated in state legislatures across the country are faring.

Next week the Louisiana Senate will be debating a bill that would require all women seeking an abortion to have an ultrasound two hours before the procedure and hear a description about what it is depicting. The New Orleans Times-Picayune reports:

Senate President Pro Tem Sharon Weston Broome, D-Baton Rouge, said the bill is designed to make a woman “think twice about having an abortion. This is such a serious decision that a woman makes, the process should be exhausted with all the medical information on the procedure” available, she said.

Louisianan women will be pleased to know that while legally the ultrasound screen must be faced toward them they will be allowed to “avert their eyes.” However (legally) they can’t shut their ears to the required description of the screen.

the individual performing the ultrasound must “provide a simultaneous explanation of what the ultrasound is depicting,” such as location of the fetus in the uterus, its size, and the presence of external members and internal organs if present and viewable.”

The woman must also be given a sealed copy of the ultrasound result but there is no requirement that she must look at it. The provider must obtain a written certification from the woman that the ultrasound has been done before the abortion is performed.

By the way, any doctor that fails to follow this procedure can be charged with feticide.

Louisiana isn’t the other state that is advancing ultrasound bills that require women seeking abortions to also hear a lecture. Oklahoma is also advancing such legislation (along with two other abortion-related bills) which cleared the Senate Health and Human Services Committee yesterday. The Associated Press reports:

The ultrasound bill would require a doctor, at least one hour before performing an abortion, to conduct an ultrasound on the pregnant woman using a vaginal transducer if that method would display the fetus more clearly. Most disconcerting to abortion rights groups is a provision that requires the doctor to describe the size of the fetus, along with any viewable cardiac activity or presence of organs.

“Some of these provisions are by far the most extreme of their kind in the country,” said Stephanie Toti, an attorney for the New York-based Center for Reproductive Rights, which successfully challenged both of the previous abortion bills. “The ultrasound is the only one that requires the doctor to describe the image to the patient, even if the patient objects.”

But Sen. Brian Crain, R-Tulsa, who supported the bill in committee, said the intent is to provide a woman with as much information as possible.

“This bill does nothing but provide more information to the mother,” Crain said. “It aids in the decision-making process.”

South Carolina was also considering a bill that would have required women seeking an abortion to have an ultrasound one hour before the procedure but yesterday the Senate passed a compromise bill. The new bill changed the timeframe from one hour to 24 hours and also allows women to skirt the ultrasound altogether by printing information from Department of Health and Environmental Control’s Website 24 hours before the procedure. The Associated Press reports:

Women seeking an abortion in South Carolina would have to wait at least a day after getting an ultrasound or reviewing information on the procedure under a compromise approved Wednesday.

The measure passed by the Senate on a voice vote would increase the wait time from one hour to one day, but the compromise removed tying that 24-hour clock to a required ultrasound.

The compromise would also allow women to print the informational material from the Department of Health and Environmental Control’s Web site, with the time stamped on it, to prove 24 hours had elapsed before an abortion. The Web site must include a link to places where women can get a free ultrasound, to include religiously affiliated pregnancy centers.

Meanwhile in the Kentucky Senate, their ultrasound-requirement bill got mucked up pretty good with unfriendly amendments.

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