Ky. Lawmakers Push for Requiring Ultrasound Before Abortion

Bringing the abortion debate up to date with modern technology, a Kentucky legislator introduced a bill last week that would require women seeking an abortion to first undergo an ultrasound and be offered a view of the results.

Republican Sen. Jack Westwood, who opposes abortion, proposed a measure to the state General Assembly last week that mandates doctors to perform ultrasounds on women seeking abortions and allow women to see the images.

"I think this has a real good chance," Westwood told The Associated Press. "I don't see how anybody would be opposed to allowing a woman to have as much information about what's going on in her body as possible."

The measure, which fines physicians up to $100,000 for not complying on the first offense and $250,000 for each subsequent offense, has been assigned to the Senate Judiciary Committee.

Many anti-abortion lawmakers in the state agreed that an ultrasound would help pregnant women considering abortion make an informed decision regarding their future.

"It goes back to the whole informed consent concept of making sure women have all of the facts," said Republican state Sen. Katie Stine, according to AP.

"It absolutely makes sense to give women the option of seeing that."

In the same report, Rep. Stan Lee, who has sponsored previous anti-abortion bills, said the bill "sounds like an idea I can support."

"I think any time you give a patient more knowledge, more information, it's probably a good thing," he commented.

The legislation represents the latest weapon by abortion opponents in their attempt to sway the abortion debate.

Pro-life groups say that women will more likely decide against abortion once they view an ultrasound.

Medical pregnancy resource clinics report that nearly 90 percent of abortion-minded women change their minds after receiving counseling and viewing an ultrasound, said Betsy Powell, manager of the Sanctity of Human Life department at Focus on the Family.

"Since 2004, over 75,000 women have changed their minds, choosing life for their babies," she said, according to the pro-family ministry's publication, Citizen Link.

Thirteen states have a requirement related to ultrasounds, according to Guttmacher Institute, a non-profit research center on reproductive health.

Alabama, Louisiana and Mississippi require ultrasounds on women seeking an abortion, and they require the doctor to offer to let the patient see the results. Arizona and Florida require ultrasounds for abortions after the first trimester, Elizabeth Nash, a public policy associate with the organization, told AP.

And more states are joining the trend. Last year, legislators in 15 states introduced 22 bills mandating that a patient see or be given the chance to see an ultrasound before deciding whether to terminate a pregnancy.

South Carolina introduced a similar bill to Kentucky last year.

Rep. Greg Delleney, the Republican lead sponsor of the legislation in South Carolina, said an ultrasound would enable the woman to "determine for herself whether she is carrying an unborn child deserving of protection or whether it's just an inconvenient, unnecessary part of her body."

Abortion supporters have expressed reservations about the ultrasound bill, saying they are designed to discourage abortion.

But Westwood noted that many doctors already perform ultrasounds before performing abortions, so the legislation would only require the doctors to brief women on the ultrasounds.

Women still have the choice to look away, said Westwood.

"The woman still would have the right to avert her eyes under this legislation. There's nothing that would require her to actually look at the ultrasound image," he told AP.

As the 35th anniversary of the legalization of abortion approaches on Jan. 22, anti-abortion groups are stepping up their efforts against the practice.

The conservative Focus on the Family is airing television ads featuring unborn babies. One ad shows a 4-D ultrasound image of a 16-week-old baby twisting and turning as the sound of its heartbeat is heard. The text of the ad reads: "Life is so amazing. The choice is so clear."

The Colorado-based group also provides funds for ultrasound machines at pregnancy crisis centers through its Option Ultrasound program, which provided 291 machines over the last three years, according to spokeswoman Kim Conroy in a report by Rhode Island's The Providence Journal.