Idaho’s proposed mandatory ultrasound bill has a lot of people scratching their heads — including the legislators who authored the bill.
Like many of the more recent versions of the model legislation (i.e. everything since the big blow up in Virginia over what some called “state-sanctioned rape”), the Idaho bill doesn’t state what type of ultrasound — vaginal or abdominal — has to be performed. But one thing they do mandate is who should perform the ultrasound.
The bill states that either a doctor or someone else at the clinic where the abortion is being performed must administer the ultrasound. And that is what is causing the problem.
Women’s health activists are arguing that conducting an ultrasound in many cases can add around $200 to the cost of an abortion. For a large share of women seeking to terminate a pregnancy, many of them lower-income, the additional expense can cause true financial hardship.
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Not to worry, says legislators. Part of the bill requires the Department of Health and Welfare to maintain a list of places where women can obtain ultrasounds for free. The list will be created by groups that contact the department and state that they provide free ultrasounds. The list, which will be posted on a state-sponsored website that doctors and abortion providers can direct women to, is expected to be populated almost entirely by Limited Pregnancy Health Centers.
In other words, crisis pregnancy centers.
The legislators haven’t decided whether or not the ultrasounds performed by these anti-choice, anti-abortion, and often religiously-based centers would qualify to cover the ultrasound requirement in the law. After all, they wouldn’t be performed by the doctors or any staff at the clinic where the termination would be done. And they also may not even have the technological capabilities that the bill requires, such as recording the fetal heartbeat.
Even if they did, abortion opponents assume that the clinic staff would want to perform a second ultrasound anyway, just to ensure they have definitely followed the letter of the law. One anti-choice activist told the Magic Valley Times News that doctors would want to perform an additional scan for “liability reasons” because “Information given during an ultrasound at a pregnancy crisis center is different than at an abortion provider.”
Yet Sen. Chuck Winder, the bill’s author, doesn’t view this as a problem at all since the entire point of the law is “to convince a woman not to go through with abortions.”
In a nutshell, the Idaho legislature is proposing an ultrasound bill that will add a few hundred dollars to the cost of obtaining an abortion. Then, to “avoid” that additional cost, it will offer a list of places that provide ultrasounds for free, despite the fact that those ultrasounds do not meet the requirements of the law. If a woman decides to terminate anyway, she will still need to pay for a legal ultrasound.
Crisis pregnancy centers are known for their deceptive tactics, such as trying to pass themselves off as reproductive health clinics in order to entrap and deceive women who seek terminations. Now, in Idaho, the state government is not only taking up the same tactics, they are codifying it in law.
The Idaho senate will begin hearings on the bill this Wednesday.