Sonogram bill awaits approval by Senate after passing House

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82nd Legislature

In its first vote this session, the Texas House easily approved a bill Monday that would place new restrictions on a woman’s right to obtain an abortion by requiring her to undergo a sonogram at least 24 hours before the procedure. Monday’s vote marked the House’s final approval for the bill, which requires physicians to provide the woman an opportunity to see a sonogram and hear a fetal heartbeat. The woman may turn her head or ask the doctor to turn off the heart beat, but still must listen to a description of the image. The doctor is also mandated to describe the abortion procedure and related risks. The bill passed the House with 107 members voting in favor. The Senate will now review the amendments the House added and then form a joint committee which will eventually draft the copy the governor will review. “We saw an overwhelming majority support the bill, and I am very pleased,” said Rep. Connie Scott, R-Robstown. “Right now the House and Senate bills are very different, and the task now is to come up with a final bill.” Last week, representatives voted on a preliminary measure and amended the bill 34 times but left most of the original language in tact. Rep. Carol Alvarado, D-Houston, said she voted against the bill because the Republican majority is neglecting the pressing fiscal issues facing the state, including a multi-billion-dollar budget shortfall. The bill will become law eventually because of the support of Gov. Rick Perry, who declared the issue an emergency item that allowed lawmakers to address it immediately, she said. “I am very disappointed in the outcome today,” Alvarado said. “I feel there are much more important items to focus on, like the budget.” During last week’s debate, Alvarado brought a trans-vaginal ultrasound instrument to show her colleagues what the sonogram bill would require, she said. “It’s not just the jelly-on-the-belly ultrasound, it’s more intrusive,” she said. “Even some of the members were not aware of that until I mentioned it at the meeting.” Victoria Heckenlaible, president of University Life Advocates, said the bill grants women the right to know the facts involved in an abortion while giving the option of receiving a sonogram. “We’re excited and happy to see this pass and feel that this allows women to have complete information about the procedure,” said Heckenlaible, a rhetoric and writing junior. “[A woman] should have access to complete information despite her doctor’s bias or the level of medical care that she can afford.” Heckenlaible said the pro-life group will continue following at least four other abortion-specific bills that have been filed, including the “Choose Life” bill, which would make pro-life license plates available and ban hospital funding for abortion. “With the sonogram bill, particularly, we have been lobbying during pro-life day [at the Capitol] and writing letters to our representatives and senators,” she said. “There are several pro-life bills going through the Legislature and we will follow those as well.”