Perry adds controversial sonogram bill to legislative session

January 24, 2011 4:32:21 PM PST
While state lawmakers look for ways to fix a massive budget shortfall, they are also being told to tackle another hot-button issue -- abortion. Specifically, Gov. Rick Perry wants to add a few steps to the process of ending a pregnancy.

It's called a sonogram bill. It's not new to Texas. In fact, it's been introduced in the past, but this year it has a bigger chance than ever for it to pass, and people on both sides of the issue have a lot to say about it.

When Perry announced over the weekend that the sonogram bill will be put on the legislative fast track, it didn't catch either side by surprise. Among other limits, the bill would require doctors to show a woman a sonogram before her abortion.

Planned Parenthood, the organization that's used to pro-life protesters outside its Houston headquarters, says the bill is overreaching.

"Actually, it's politicians telling physicians how to practice medicine, which is uncalled for and frankly, ridiculous," said Rochelle Tafoya with Planned Parenthood.

But advocates for the bill see it differently.

Mary Catharine Maxian, who is the founder of a local pro-life organization, says the bill sponsored by State Sen. Dan Patrick should become law.

"It's really just a matter of giving her the full-informed consent so that she sees what she's doing and also, it'll turn up the sound so she can hear the heartbeat of her baby," Maxian said.

Besides hearing the heartbeat, the bill would require doctors to explain the physical characteristics of the fetus and give the woman a 24-hour waiting period to consider the alternatives.

Our political analyst, Dr. Richard Murray, says while the state's budget is the most pressing issue that affects every Texan, he's not surprised that Perry is putting the sonogram bill on the fast track.

"This is not unique to Texas," Murray said. "There are a whole bunch of states where conservatives are in control that are pushing tougher restrictions on abortion."

This is not the first time such a bill has been introduced in the legislature, but with Republicans holding a supermajority in the House, even opponents say the sonogram bill will most likely become law.

"I think it's probably likely that it will pass," Tofoya said.

The bill is in the early stages and has to go through committees, and if it passes, it's not clear what specifics will actually make it through to its final form.

The cost of the sonogram is still being decided upon, but most likely, it would be passed onto the woman already paying for the abortion.


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