Thursday, February 10, 2011

Texas Sonogram Bill Passes First Hurdle

The Texas Senate heard testimony yesterday on Texas Senate Bill 16, commonly known as the Texas Sonogram Bill.  Filed by Houston area Senator Dan Patrick, this bill requires a woman to receive a sonogram at least 24 hours before an abortion procedure, to view the sonogram images, for the fetal development to be described during the ultrasound and to hear the baby’s heartbeat.  

The intent of this bill is to ensure women are receiving full and accurate medical information on their pregnancy before giving informed consent to an abortion.  This bill will require a woman to receive an ultrasound and have the right to view it.  The Director of Planned Parenthood of the Texas Capital Region, Dr. Scott Spear, testified, “Standard care already includes performing an ultrasound.”  However, women testified they were not permitted to view their ultrasound or strongly encouraged to not watch the sonogram before their abortion.

Opponents to the bill say the Texas Legislature is attempting to interfere in the Doctor/Patient relationship; however, this would not be the first time specialized consent would be required for a medical procedure in Texas.  They also claim this bill requiring an ultrasound would increase the cost of the abortion to the patient, yet Planned Parenthood, the State's largest abortion provider testified that performing an ultrasound before an abortion is included in the standard of care.  The patient at Planned Parenthood is already bearing the cost of the ultrasound yet rarely views it before the procedure.     In addition, there is no requirement in the bill that the ultrasound be provided at the abortion provider's office.  There are Crisis Pregnancy Centers across the state that offer free ultrasounds to pregnancy women.  And, as I posted earlier this week, there is a MCPU outside Houston's Planned Parenthood Mega Abortion Clinic whose staff provides free sonograms on the spot.  The truth is, Senator Patrick’s bill will raise the medical standard of care given to women seeking a surgical abortion.

After hearing from many concerned citizens and media outlets about a woman's right to refuse to view the sonogram or hear the heartbeat, Senator Patrick amended the wording of SB 16 to strengthen a woman’s right of refusal to view the ultrasound or hear the fetal heartbeat, but they must still be told the stage of fetal development during the sonogram. Victims of sexual assault, incest and those carrying a fetus with abnormalities can opt out of the entire process.

While the Senate has passed a Sonogram Bill in two previous legislative sessions, a sonogram bill has never had an up or down vote on the floor of the Texas House.  After 9 hours of testimony yesterday, the Senate committee passed HB16 on a 7-2 vote.  It should proceed to a vote before the entire Texas Senate next week.

Similar sonogram legislation has been filed in the Texas House and should be heard in committee in the next few weeks.  Expect much stronger opposition to this bill as it weaves its way through the House Committee Hearings.

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