- The Washington Times - Monday, February 9, 2009

Maryland and Virginia are among 11 states considering bills that would offer or require ultrasounds before a woman gets an abortion.

The most stringent bills are being proposed in Indiana, Nebraska and Texas, requiring a doctor show the ultrasound image of the baby to the woman, despite legal challenges to a similar measure in Oklahoma.

Supporters hope the images will convince women seeking an abortion to change their minds.

“Many times, these are young mothers who are in vulnerable situations. And they are about to make a very grave choice.” said Nebraska Sen. Tony Fulton of Lincoln, who introduced the ultrasound bill (LB675) there. “This is about informed consent.”

A similar bill was proposed in Wyoming, but it was defeated in a House committee before reaching the floor.

In Maryland, a clinic providing abortions would have to be equipped with an ultrasound machine and offer a woman a chance to see the image and listen to the heartbeat. The bill is restricted to Anne Arundel County.

In Virginia, an ultrasound would be required, and the woman would be offered the chance to view the image.

Sixteen states already have laws related to abortion ultrasounds, some requiring they be performed and others requiring a woman be told where she can get a free ultrasound.

But Oklahoma’s law, which is being challenged in court, is the only one that requires the image to be presented to the woman, even if she refuses to look at it. The law also requires the doctor to describe the picture.

Indiana’s proposal requires the mother to listen to the fetal heartbeat.

Oklahoma’s law was to go into effect Nov. 1, but a judge put it on hold after the Center for Reproductive Rights filed a lawsuit saying it intrudes on privacy, endangers health and assaults dignity.

“They really do not even veil their goal, which is to make a woman feel badly and to make her change her mind,” said Celine Mizrahi, a lawyer for the New York-based center. “It really is a ridiculous position to put the doctor and patient in.”

Most women who have decided to terminate a pregnancy have made the decision after considering facts and options, Miss Mizrahi said. And the medical procedure, she said, is between a doctor and a patient.

This year, there’s legislation in South Carolina to make the waiting period 24 hours.

But even these less restrictive ultrasound laws - which can “seem less scary to folks who are pro-choice” - are troublesome, Miss Mizrahi said.

For example, they may require a referral to a place that offers ultrasounds for free.

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