Texas Senate approves pre-abortion ultrasound law

AUSTIN, Tex. Thu Feb 17, 2011 7:14pm 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.

Republican Gov. Rick Perry, who had put the legislation on a fast track by declaring it an emergency priority, commended the bill's advancement.

"Considering the magnitude of the decision to have an abortion, it is crucial that Texans understand what is truly at stake," Perry said in a statement.

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.

"This is God's time to pass this bill," said the measure's author, Sen. Dan Patrick, a Houston Republican.

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 of Houston.

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.

Eighteen states regulate abortion providers' provision of ultrasound, according to the Guttmacher Institute. The requirements in those states vary widely; some of them require women to get an ultrasound before an abortion, while others require only that she be offered the chance to see the image if an ultrasound is performed.

(Editing by Greg McCune)

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