House Committee Blocks New Abortion Measures

Mar 20, 2014

A handful of bills amending the state's informed consent laws regarding abortion were defeated by a state House committee Thursday.

In strict party line vote, the House Health and Welfare Committee rejected a pair of bills that would have required women seeking an abortion to undergo an ultrasound and permit the state to file criminal charges against doctors who fail to comply A third bill would have mandated an in-person consultation between the woman and her physician at least 24 hours prior to an abortion.

Sen. Whitney Westerfield argued that the ultrasound measures do not create new barriers for women.

"It does not provide some guilt trip, heartbreaking story from a physician or a physician's assistant in the room. It involves medical information about what's actually there or at least what's actually visible," he told the panel.

Rep. David Watkins, however, characterized the bill as superfluous and intrusive.

"I don't know of any other procedure we legislate and tell doctors how to practice medicine and that's something that does really trouble me... This is something that sets a bad precedent," Watkins said.

Opponents, including Derrick Selznick with the American Civil Liberties Union, also questioned the constitutionality of the measures and warned of costly litigation.

Under House Bill 575 and Senate Bill 8, patients would not be required to view the ultrasounds, but physicians would have to describe the age and position of the fetus.