The Texas House of Representatives voted overwhelmingly yesterday to pass a bill that requires women seeking abortions to first get a sonogram as well as listen to audio, if available, of the unborn baby's heartbeat.
The proposal, the first significant bill considered by the House this year, was designated by Republican Governor Rick Perry as an emergency priority. A similar measure has already been approved by the state Senate.
Women would have to get an ultrasound between 24 and 72 hours before an abortion, the bill says. They would view the sonogram, hear an explanation of the image and listen to the heartbeat, if it is audible. [...]
Democrats tried unsuccessfully to add a series of amendments to the bill. One of those said that if the woman decided not to go through with the abortion, the state would have to pay for the college education for the child. Another, which also would have applied to cases in which the woman decided not to have the abortion, would have allowed women to get a court order to require the father of the child to get a vasectomy.
"We want to make sure that they're fully informed, that they understand the medical consequences, the psychological consequences and everything involved in the procedure," the bill's author, Republican state Rep. Sid Miller, told Reuters.
Not everyone is happy, however. For example, opponents of the bill claim it's an intrusive procedure and it will traumatize women.
"This is not the jelly on the belly that most of you think," Rep. Carol Alvarado, a Houston Democrat, told Reuters. "This is government intrusion at its best."
The bill still faces a minor procedural hurdle on Monday (when it's expected to be fully passed), and it must be rectified with a similar bill passed in the Senate last month. That, says Sen. Dan Patrick (R-Houston), is of the utmost importance and could be difficult.
"I appreciate the hard work and the efforts of the House, and if I could vote for their bill by myself, I'd sign off on it," Patrick told the Fort Worth Star Telegram. "But we do not have the votes to pass their bill, and every day that goes by, we lose potentially 40 to 50 lives. So we cannot let this process linger."
The Telegram explains some of the key differences:
The Senate bill contains exemptions for victims of incest and rape, which the House bill does not. Another key difference centers on the amount of time between the sonogram and the abortion.
Under the House bill, a sonogram must be performed no later than 24 hours before an abortion. The Senate bill would allow the sonogram to be performed up to two hours beforehand. Many proponents say the House version would give women more time to rethink their decision.