Texas Pro-Life Group Backs Ultrasound Before Abortion Bill

State   Steven Ertelt   Apr 19, 2011   |   12:19PM    Austin, TX

When members of the Texas Senate vote on a bill that allows women a chance to see an ultrasound before an abortion, they will do so knowing that one of Texas’ statewide pro-life organizations strongly supports it.

The legislation has been reworked from its original, but officials with Texas Alliance for Life informed LifeNews.com today that, after careful analysis, the organization strongly supports the new version of the sonogram bill passed on April 12 by the Senate State Affairs Committee. The bill is the committee substitute for House Bill 15 and is sponsored by state Sen. Dan Patrick, a Houston Republican.

“We enthusiastically support this new version of the sonogram bill, which combines the best elements of the House and Senate versions,” Joe Pojman, executive director of Texas Alliance for Life, told LifeNews. “No bill is perfect, and this bill is not an exception. However, this bill provides nearly all of the informed consent protections allowed by the U.S. Supreme Court to at least 92% of women considering abortion.”

“We believe this bill raises the standard of care related to informed consent for abortion to the same level that patients expect for other medical and surgical procedures. That is what women deserve,” Pojman added.

Under the legislation, prior to every abortion, the abortion practitioner or a certified sonographer must perform a sonogram before any sedative or anesthesia is administered. Currently, as revealed by public testimony, every abortion in Texas is preceded by a sonogram, and first trimester abortions are preceded by transvaginal sonograms. However, current Texas law has no sonogram standards for abortion facilities, and even transvaginal sonograms are performed by poorly trained, uncertified individuals, according to the public testimony, TAL explained.

Before every abortion, the abortion practitioner must give an explanation of the sonogram images of the unborn child. The woman may waive this right only in cases of rape, incest, fetal abnormality, and judicial bypass for a minor, the group noted. The abortion practitioner must also allow the woman to see the sonogram images of the unborn child and hear the heartbeat along with a verbal explanation of the heartbeat.

At least 24 hours before every abortion, TAL says the bill makes it so the abortion practitioner must have a private consultation with the woman to discuss the procedure, medical risks, and alternatives. Pojamn said this ensures that every woman has the right to speak with the abortion doctor at least 24 hours in advance about risks, complications, and alternatives, just as they would receive from a physician prior to virtually any other procedure.

For women who reside in counties with more than 60,000 people (more than 92% of women seeking abortions), the sonogram must be performed at least 24 hours before the abortion, and the consultation must be given in person. For women who reside in smaller counties or more than 100 miles from an abortion provider (less than 8% of women seeking abortions), the sonogram may be performed at least two hours before the abortion and the 24-hour private consultation may be done by phone.

The Texas Medical Board must take appropriate action against any abortion practitioner who violates the law, TAL says, and the Department of State Health Services must make random, unannounced inspections to ensure compliance.

“We strongly encourage members of the House and Senate to vote for this bill,” urged Pojman. “Texas needs to provide the protections to mothers and unborn babies that they deserve.”

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Thanks to pro-life Governor Rick Perry making sonogram legislation an emergency item, the House and Senate have already passed bills requiring doctors to show abortion-seeking women their sonogram, as well as play the heartbeat of their child.

Since the sonogram bills that passed in each chamber were not considered “companion bills,” the House had to pick up the Senate version or vice versa.

Texas lawmakers voted 103-42 to approve House Bill 15, which is similar but slightly different to legislation the state Senate approved on a 21-10 vote in February. The Senate bill requires the ultrasound two hours before the abortion while the House measure requires it 24-72 hours beforehand. Democratic Rep. Carol Alvarado was one of the top abortion advocates looking to stall the bill and she and Democratic Rep. Rafael Anchia misled lawmakers into thinking a trans-vaginal ultrasound was necessary, even though doctors say that’s not the case.