The Pennsylvania House of Representatives is preparing to pass a bill that would require women to view an ultrasound 24 hours before undergoing an abortion. The measure, which has attracted 112 sponsors (enough for passage), establishes rigid guidelines for physicians and ultrasound operators that are designed to dissuade women from undergoing the procedure, although “exceptions are provided in the cases of rape, incest, medical emergencies and for fetuses that are less than eight weeks along.”
Supporters of abortion rights are already speaking out against the measure. “I’m shocked at the people whose names are on this,” state Rep. Babette Josephs (D) told Philly Now. “They assume—all of them—that women are either childish, frivolous, brainless, stupid or evil.” Indeed, ultrasound operators are required to:
Inform the patient of her right to observe the fetal heartbeat and, if she exercises that right, make observable the live real-time heartbeat, when present, for the patient to observe. If the auscultation is performed, the patient must also be informed of her right to hear the fetal heartbeat, when present, in live real time.
Position the screen so that the patient is able to view the ultrasound test in its entirety, with a view of her unborn child, while that test is being conducted to determine gestational age. The patient is not required to view the screen.
Provide two prints, in separate sealed envelopes, of the ultrasound image to be used to accurately determine gestational age. One print shall be provided to the patient, and one print shall be provided to the physician who is to perform the abortion.
Physicians performing the abortion will have to “Inform the patient of the probable gestational age of the unborn child” and “Offer the patient an opportunity to view an ultrasound video” if the abortion is performed within 14 days of the ultrasound. The bill would also empower the attorney general to seek an injunction to shut down providers who fail to comply with the detailed ultrasound requirements and record keeping provisions. Both physicians and ultrasound operators must submit annual reports indicating the “gestational age of the unborn child” and whether the patient declined to view the ultrasound. According to the Guttmacher Institute, six states already mandate “that an abortion provider perform an ultrasound on each woman seeking an abortion, and require the provider to offer the woman the opportunity to view the image.”