Right to Life advocates and Right to Choice supporters are about to clash on a proposed Pennsylvania bill that may be on the fast track to become the most extreme ultrasound bill in the nation.
The 22-page Pennsylvania House Bill 1077, touted by its sponsors as the "Women's Right to Know Act," is slated for a House vote in March or April, and contains a number of provisions that claim to provide information, but may be construed as intending to discourage women from having an abortion.
It is common practice for a woman contemplating an abortion to have an ultrasound said Sari Stevens, executive director of Planned Parenthood of Pennsylvania
"An ultrasound to verify the gestational period and to check for possible complications in a pregnancy are part of the routine care prior to an abortion," Stevens explained.
She said that if the bill was truly a "Women's Right to Know Act," she would support it.
"This bill is an example of government overreach," Stevens said. "Especially the requirement of the viewing of the screen."
To see or not to see, that is the question. In current practice, when an ultrasound is performed, the physician or technician conducting the test views the screen, which is placed near the patient.
The legislation presumes that it may be possible the patient is not able or permitted to view the ultrasound, or as stated in the proposed legislation, "In recognition of the importance of a woman's dignity in making an informed choice, the factual information provided by an ultrasound test should be provided to a woman as an integral part of the informed consent necessary to undergo an abortion."
This is to be accomplished as follows, "Position the screen so that the patient is able to view the ultrasound test in its entirety, with a view of her unborn child, while that test is being conducted to determine gestational age. The patient is not required to view the screen."
Currently, a woman would have to turn her head toward the screen to view. The legislation would place the screen in front of the women and it would require the woman to avert her eyes to not view the screen.
House Bill 1077 includes additional provisions: such as providing two prints of the ultrasound one for the patient and one for the physician, and to complete a signed statement that the ultrasound and fetal heart monitor were performed and whether the woman accepted or refused to view or listen that reads, "I was informed of the probable gestational age of my unborn child at the time the abortion was performed. I was provided an opportunity to view an ultrasound video approved and provided by the Department of Health."
The details of the proposed legislation may be found online by performing a search for Pennsylvania House Bill 1077.
The bill was proposed by Pennsylvania state Rep. Kathy Rapp, 65th District (Republican, Forest County, Warren County and parts of McKean County); and has a significant number of cosponsors including Rep. Doyle Heffley, 122nd District (Republican, Carbon County).
Suzi DeMara, director of Care Net of Lehighton, a privately-funded, nonpolitical Christian organization that provides both pre- and post-abortion counseling, said that although she could not speak about the legislation, she said women have come to her counseling saying that seeing the fetus during an ultrasound had affected them, with some choosing not to go through with the abortion.
As her organization takes a right-to-life position, she said it would favor any means that would have women view the ultrasound image of their fetus and possibly avoid an abortion.
Information being circulated in a petition drive initiated by Stevens for Planned Parenthood Pennsylvania Advocates and circulated by the nonprofit, liberal political action committee, MoveOn, stated, "The bill would subject women to invasive, transvaginal ultrasounds ..."
In speaking with Stevens, she indicated that there was no statement requiring "transvaginal ultrasounds" and that language was not in the bill, although the bill would in effect, require an increase in that type of procedure.
"Transvaginal ultrasounds"are used in the first weeks of pregnancy when the fetus is very small.
To gather a more detailed image, the ultrasonic probe is inserted vaginally. The decision whether to place the probe abdominally or internally is decided by the person performing the procedure.