Texas Legislators Promote Bill for Ultrasounds Before Abortions

State   |   Steven Ertelt   |   Dec 30, 2010   |   7:20PM   |   Austin, TX

If a woman is going to have an abortion, shouldn’t she at least be given all of the information she needs to make an informed decision beforehand?

That’s the question two Texas legislators are asking, and they say the answer is ensuring women are given information about their unborn baby that abortion centers normally don’t provide beforehand. Although women getting abortions most often have an ultrasound to determine gestational age, they don’t necessarily get a chance to view it.

Sen. Dan Patrick, a Houston Republican, and Rep. Rep. Geanie Morrison, a Victoria Republican, are behind a bill in the Texas legislature that would change that.

“I am very excited about the prospects of this critical bill in the upcoming legislative session,” Patrick told the Victoria Advocate. “Rep. Morrison is a passionate pro-life legislator who will ensure the sonogram bill finally passes in the House of Representatives.”

“A sonogram provides the most complete ‘picture’ of a woman’s pregnancy, which makes it one of the most vital pieces of information that a woman needs when deciding whether or not to seek an abortion,” Patrick said.

“The legislation requires that women have all the information before the procedure takes place,” Morrison added. “Sonograms are already being done, but the legislation makes it mandatory for women to be given the choice to see the sonogram.”

They are behind Senate Bill 130 and House Bill 201 they jointly filed that will be officially introduced in the legislature when the session begins next month. The Senate approved similar ultrasounds bills in 2007 and 2009 but the House did follow suit — in part, pro-life groups say, because Texas House Speaker Joe Straus did not put enough effort behind it getting through the chamber on time.

The bills mandate that abortion centers not only provide women a chance to see the ultrasounds and make the sound of the heartbeat audible, but explain them in a “manner understandable to a layperson,” as well as “a medical description of the dimensions of the embryo or fetus, the presence of cardiac activity, and the presence of external members and internal organs.”

Morrisson told the newspaper, “This legislation would require mandatory consultations in person, not over the phone, or by recorded message, at least 24 hours prior to the procedure. We just want women to be informed about the procedure and the short-term and long-term health risks. Any type of procedure you get, even if you have dental surgery, you should talk to a physician and see what the risks are.”

The bills enjoy strong backing from pro-life advocates, who know ultrasounds have helped women understand the humanity of their unborn child. When used in pregnancy centers they persuade as many as 80 percent of women considering an abortion to seek alternatives.

The legislation would amend the current Texas Women’s Right to Know Act, which was passed in 2003. That’s a state law requiring abortion practitioners to provide women with information about abortion’s risks and alternatives.

Under Patrick’s bill, women would not be required to see the ultrasound but they must be allowed the chance to do so and can sign a form stating they were given the opportunity. The ultrasounds will be done at no additional cost for women. [related]

Texas Gov. Rick Perry has previously urged lawmakers in the state legislature to adopt the bill, which he called “another layer of protection for the most vulnerable Texans.”

“Issues of this complexity and moral weight are the sort of thing that we are sent here to address,” he said.

There are more than 74,000 abortions in Texas annually and legislators are hoping Patrick’s bill and others the legislature is considering will help reduce that figure.