Texas Senate passes bill requiring pre-abortion ultrasound

AUSTIN, Tex. Thu Feb 17, 2011 4:59pm EST

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AUSTIN, Tex. (Reuters) - The Texas Senate on Thursday approved a measure that would require women seeking an abortion to first get an ultrasound.

Women could choose not to view the sonogram image or listen to the heartbeat, but they would be required to listen to an explanation of the images, except in cases of rape or incest or if there are fetal abnormalities.

State Sen. Bob Deuell, a physician and a supporter of the bill, said that since abortion is the only medical procedure in which the object is to kill a human being, it is crucial to give the mother all the information she needs.

"Can we not at least give the baby at least one more chance for survival by giving that mother that information?" asked Deuell, a Republican. "That's what this bill does."

The measure now goes to the Texas House where it has broad support. The legislation passed out of the Senate in 2007 and 2009 but died in the House. This year, the House has a larger Republican majority.

Republican Gov. Rick Perry has designated the item as an "emergency" measure, saying in his state of the state address that it protects the unborn by ensuring "that women are fully, medically informed before they make the life-changing decision to terminate a pregnancy."

The emergency designation put the proposal on a fast track during the legislative session that began January 11.

Opponents say that the measure interferes with the doctor-patient relationship and would be traumatic for women in an already difficult situation.

"It's the most serious decision they'll ever make in their lives and now you're trying to put government in the middle of that decision," said Democratic Sen. John Whitmire.

Senator Leticia Van de Putte, a San Antonio Democrat who also opposed the legislation, said that if the goal is to protect the unborn, lawmakers should also focus on supporting children once they have emerged from the womb. As lawmakers write the state budget, Texas faces a substantial shortfall in money to pay for programs such as education. She urged her colleagues not to whack pre-kindergarten programs, vaccines or health insurance.

Texas is one of several states with strong Republican legislative majorities proposing additional restrictions on abortion.

(Editing by Greg McCune)

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