Texas Senate Committee Passes Abortion-Ultrasound Bill

State   Steven Ertelt   Feb 10, 2011   |   2:02PM   

A Texas state Senate panel on Wednesday approved a bill that would allow women a chance to see an ultrasound of their unborn child before having an abortion. When used in pregnancy centers, ultrasounds have persuded most women to choose life.

The bill, passed by the Senate State Affairs Committee 7-2, requires an ultrasound be performed 24 hours before an abortion. The mother must be presented with a sonogram and an audible fetal heartbeat, if detectable, which she can refuse to see or hear. Even if she did, doctors would still be have to orally describe the development of the unborn child at the time.

Houston state Sen. Dan Patrick is the main sponsor of the legislation, which enjoys support from pro-life Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst. The measure received approval from the state Senate in 2009 but eventually died in the state House as Speaker Joe Strauss was accused of not pushing the bill before time expired on the legislative session.

“This bill will be the strongest in the nation,” said Patrick, saying it elevates and outlines the standard of care by ordering a sonogram. “but the balance is that we don’t mandate women to see it.”

The bill was changed after an abortion advocate testified against it, according to the Dallas News:

Their testimony prompted the Senate State Affairs Committee to amend the proposal so that women with medical conditions — as well as sexual assault victims — would not have to listen to the physical description of the fetus. All women will still have to undergo a sonogram.

Patrick said too many women are denied information about fetal development because abortion providers “don’t want them to see the sonogram.”

Teresa Sadler, 35, said that while she was a 19-year-old college student in Denton, she had an abortion where her provider turned the sonogram screen away and tried to prevent her from seeing it.

“I was told immediately to lie back down on the table,” she said. A drug was administered and the abortion was completed when she woke up. She said she never saw a doctor.

“I take responsibility for my decision,” said Sadler, who is now a nurse. But she said if she had the chance to see a sonogram and better informed, “I might have made a different decision.”

The full Senate is likely to consider the bill as early as next week.

Passage comes after Texas Governor Rick Perry said he would grant emergency status to the legisltion. Perry announced the fast track status last month during his speech at the March for Life in Austin.

“It’s pretty hard to imagine people of good conscience sitting idly by through this, and in Texas we haven’t,” he said, saying the Supreme Court decision to allow virtually unlimited abortions, Roe v. Wade, is a “tragedy.”

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.”

“This is the same bill I passed in ’07, this is the same bill that I introduced in ’09,” said Patrick. “We needed to tweak it a bit (in 2009) in order to pass it.”

Planned Parenthood, the nation’s biggest abortion business, opposes the bill to inform women and Rochelle Tafolla, a spokeswoman for Planned Parenthood in Houston, told the Houston Chronicle that she