Michele Gilbert

82nd Legislature

The Texas Senate Committee on State Affairs voted Wednesday to proceed with a pre-abortion sonogram bill after hearing testimony from supporters and opponents. State Sen. Dan Patrick, R-Houston, authored the bill that requires women to go through a sonogram procedure and hear a description of the fetus as well as the heartbeat if it is audible. Seven of the committee’s nine members voted in favor of the bill. It will now go before the entire Senate. “What this bill does is remove the barrier that is placed in front of women now from getting the information they are entitled to,” Patrick said. The committee passed a committee substitute, meaning they made substantial changes to the original language. The bill now requires a 24-hour lapse between the sonogram and the abortion instead of a two-hour waiting period and includes a provision that allows women seeking abortions in cases of reported rape or incest or when the fetus has an irreversible abnormality to opt out of hearing or seeing anything. It now also gives abortion providers a month to inform the state of a performed procedure instead of only a week. Sarah J. Wheat, spokeswoman for Planned Parenthood, which opposes the bill, said policymakers should focus on strengthening the economy and combating the extreme budget shortfalls. “I think your average Texan is wondering why the senators are taking their very busy time directing what doctors need to do with their clients,” she said. Wheat said abortion is an intensely private decision that women make with their doctors, their families and their god. But Carol Everett, the founder and CEO of anti-abortion advocacy organization The Heidi Group and a former abortion clinic owner, disagrees. “Let’s not insult women,” Everett said. “I have had an abortion, and it has distressed me and destroyed my life for years.” She said she favors the bill because it protects the rights of women and allows them to gain adequate information on how abortion can affect their bodies. Dr. Margaret Thompson, an obstetrics and gynecology practitioner, testified at the hearing and said sonograms help obtain vital information in specific cases, but not every situation warrants the procedure. “This law requires that physicians perform an ultrasound even if it’s not in the physician’s judgment that it needs to be performed,” Thompson said. Dr. Michele Gilbert, another OB-GYN who testified, said the bill does not contribute anything to the ethical aspect of abortion procedures. She said they go over cautionary guidelines in a booklet given to every patient. “Many patients will say this information has been received plenty of times,” Gilbert said. She also said there is no good scientific evidence to prove that the procedures in the proposed bill can change a woman’s mind. “If someone wants to see the pictures, we always allow them to see the pictures,” Gilbert said. Every patient is unique, and every situation is also unique, said OB-GYN Dr. Matthew Romberg, who also testified at the hearing.