Pennsylvania Legislators Considering One Of The Most Far-Reaching Ultrasound Bills In The Nation

State Rep. Kathy Rapp (seated) explains the bill at a press conference with fellow legislators.

Lawmakers in at least four states are considering legislation requiring women to view an ultrasound before undergoing an abortion, but the most extreme and far reaching bill may be in Pennsylvania, where technicians would be required to provide women with “personalized copies of the results.” Elizabeth Nash, policy analyst at the Guttmacher Institute, “explains“:

In addition to mandating the much-maligned transvaginal ultrasound requirements since rejected by the state of Virginia, Pennsylvania legislators proposed strongly encouraging women to view and listen to the ultrasounds, forcing technicians to give the women personalized copies of the results and mandating how long before any abortion the ultrasound much be performed — and that’s just for starters. […]

“This bill definitely suffers the legislators-playing-doctor problem. … There are a number of requirements in this bill that are medically unnecessary,” Nash said, pointing out that so many requirements packed into the 22-page bill could make it logistically difficult for abortion providers to comply with them. “This bill is something that would be unacceptable to most women seeking an abortion.”

Additionally, Nash points out that the length of the legislation hides bizarre and unprecedented requirements, such as asking women who gets an ultrasound more than 14 days before her abortion to view a state-approved video on fetal gestation. The bill, unlike many other ultrasound requirements, does offer exceptions for victims of rape and incest; the bill does not require victims to have reported the incidents to the authorities.

The House Health Committee passed the bill, and the Pennsylvania House should vote on it in mid-March.

The bill’s sponsor state Rep. Kathy Rapp (R) defended the legislation by saying it’s a matter of women being well-informed. “As a woman, I believe when a woman makes a crucial decision about her health and her body, she should be fully informed,” Rapp said. And state Rep. Marcy Toepel (R), a co-sponsor of the legislation, said, “Getting an ultrasound is a good thing for pregnant women.” The bill even attracted 113 co-sponsors — enough for passage.

But studies have proven that viewing an ultrasound does not lead women to not have abortions. And while seven states already require doctors to give women the option of an ultrasound before an abortion procedure, Pennsylvania’s bill goes well beyond simply making sure that women have enough information.


On Thursday, the Pennsylvania House delayed a vote on the ultrasound bill. The state Senate approved the bill late Tuesday after amending it to remove references to transvaginal ultrasounds.

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