Texas Democrats Delay Vote on Ultrasound Before Abortion Bill

State   |   Steven Ertelt   |   Mar 2, 2011   |   7:08PM   |   Austin, TX

The Texas state House of Representatives was scheduled to vote today on a bill that would allow women a chance to see an ultrasound of their unborn child before an abortion but Democratic legislators balked.

They objected to how the State Affairs Committee held a hearing and logged testimony on the legislation and the top Democrat in the state House complained extensively about the hearing. Rep. Jessica Farrar, a Houston Democrat, called the delay in voting and Rep. Sid Miller, the author of the bill, said the debate would resume on the bill tomorrow.

When Miller brought up HB 15, Democrats used amendments, point-of-order delaying tactics, and inaccurate comments about the bill to get their way.

Rep. Carol Alvarado, a Houston Democrat, went to the state House floor and took out a long white-plastic device to describe how women would supposedly be subjected to a trans-vaginal probe before an abortion — even though such ultrasounds are not the kind that women would receive (and already receive, according to most reports) before an abortion.

“This is government intrusion at its best. We’ve reached an all-time high, the climax of government intrusion,” she claimed.

But Dr. Melissa Clouthier, a prominent Texas-based pro-life blogger, says Alvarado is wrong.

“Transvaginal ultrasounds are used to measure the length of the cervix for potential pre-term labor, to examine the vaginal walls and to access a visual on the uterus that may be obstructed the other way, to name a few purposes,” she explained. “It is not typically used to confirm pregnancy or determine gestational age, but it can be. That’s just not standard practice. A woman doesn’t have to have a transvaginal ultrasound to see the baby. An abdominal one suffices.”

“In most places (including where I live), there are Ob-Gyns who will do the ultrasound for free,” Clouthier continues. “The local birth center has a list. The women there say that about 50% of the time a woman changes her mind. Of course, these women already have doubts.”

Miller also responded, according to a San Antonio newspaper.

“Anytime you abort a human life, that’s probably the most tragic procedure that could ever be performed,” he said. “If we can save human lives, that is an emergency. I would even put it in front of the budget. . . . If you’re asking me which is more important, the life of an unborn or the money in our state budget, I’m going to choose life over money any time.”

Miller eventually announced he was sending his bill back to the State Affairs Committee to resolve a procedural technicality and indicated debate would resume on the measure on Thursday.

The Senate has already approved its version of the ultrasound bill voting 21-10 to approve the bill and send it to the state House for consideration.

The measure, passed by the Senate State Affairs Committee 7-2 in February, 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 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.

Patrick opened debate saying the bill is  necessary to provide the mother considering an abortion with the information she needs to make a decision. He also rebuffed concerns from the Texas Medical Association which said the measure would somehow intrude on the doctor-patient relationship even though women getting abortions have never met the abortion practitioner before.

“This is the only medical procedure that the goal ends in death. There is no patient relationship between that baby and the doctor,” Patrick said.