Texas Senate Approves to Ultrasound Before Abortion Bill

State   |   Steven Ertelt   |   May 2, 2011   |   4:06PM   |   Austin, TX

The Texas state Senate has given initial approval to a bill that would allow women considering an abortion to see an ultrasound of their unborn child beforehand, in a measure legislators hope will reduce abortions.

After nearly two hours of debate, the Senate  passed the bill on second reading on a 21-10 vote and all hostile, pro-abortion amendments by Sens. Wendy Davis, Jose Rodriguez, and Leticia Van de Putte were defeated. The legislative chamber still needs to give the measure final approval on third reading, but that is expected to take place with a similar or identical vote.

Sen. Dan Patrick is the sponsor of HB 15, which gets its final vote Tuesday and will then head back to the House for a confirmation vote before going to pro-life Texas Gov. Rick Perry, who is expected to sign it into law.

During the debate, the biggest point of contention was whether women should be allowed to see the ultrasound 24 hours before the abortion so they have time to reflect on the information and images showing the development of their unborn child. Without the reflection time, legislators were concerned abortion businesses may rush women into abortions they may not otherwise want if given time for consideration.

Sen. Carlos Uresti, a San Antonio Democrat, said the 24-hour waiting time would make it hard on women who live in rural areas because they would need to make two trips to the abortion center. But Sen. Bob Deuell, a Greenville Republican, said the is also about protecting unborn children. Women who live more than 100 miles from the abortion center are exempted under the bill.

“It’s to give the child that one last chance at life, and perhaps prevent remorse on the part of that mother at a later date,” Deuell said.

The legislation has been reworked from its original, but officials with Texas Alliance for Life informed LifeNews.com last month 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.

However, Texas Right to Life says the changes made to the bill water it down too much to support.

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.

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.