© 2012 Idaho Press-Tribune

BOISE — A proposed bill that would amend existing state abortion laws to require women seeking the procedure to first undergo an ultrasound is causing controversy as it makes its way through the Idaho Legislature.

According to SB 1349, women would not be required to view the ultrasound image, but doctors and patients would both need to sign a statement verifying that the ultrasound was administered prior to the abortion procedure.

The ACLU of Idaho, Planned Parenthood Votes Northwest and United Action of Idaho are holding a protest of the bill on the Statehouse steps at noon today. In a statement, the groups said they have been “inundated” with phone calls and emails regarding the bill, and are deeply concerned about its consequences.

Sponsors of SB 1349 said the purpose is to give women the opportunity to make an informed decision by providing them with more information before going through with an abortion, and it is not intended to sway them from having an abortion.

According to the bill’s statement of purpose, SB 1349 would add to the information already provided to expectant mothers as required by Idaho Code by including a list of places where women can obtain an ultrasound free of charge.   

The bill states, with the exception of a medical emergency, women who are considering an abortion would first receive printed information 24-hours prior to a scheduled abortion about services available to them from pregnancy through childbirth and child care. They would also receive photos and information about normal fetus development and descriptions of abortion procedures currently available, as well as risks associated with them

Prior to the abortion procedure, the patient would then receive an ultrasound “using whichever method the physician and patient agree is best under the circumstances.” Following the ultrasound, doctors and patients would initial and sign a statement that includes the gestational age and the heart rate of the fetus if available, and would also indicate whether or not the patient chose to view the image, listen to the heart beat, and accepted a physical image of the ultrasound.

The bill does not prohibit a woman from going through with the abortion following the ultrasound.

A similar bill in Virginia caused nationwide controversy over a requirement that women receive more invasive transvaginal ultrasounds, because abdominal ultrasounds would not produce a clear enough picture during the earliest stages of a pregnancy.

The Virginia bill was amended to exclude that requirement and was signed into law Wednesday by Virginia Gov. Bob McConnell.

The Idaho bill does not require that type of ultrasound, but leaves it up to the patient and physician to determine the type of ultrasound.

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