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Utah Legislature: Abortion ultrasound measure passes House

Published: Saturday, Feb. 6 2010 12:00 a.m. MST

SALT LAKE CITY — Medical clinics performing abortions would be required to display any ultrasound images of a pregnant woman's fetus taken prior to the procedure if she chooses to see them, under a bill approved 53-15 in the House on Friday.

HB200, which addresses the informed consent portion of state abortion statutes, also would require clinics to give a detailed description of the ultrasound images if the woman asks for the information.

The bill's sponsor, Rep. Carl Wimmer, R-Herriman, told fellow lawmakers that the bill is a type of full-disclosure measure that would allow women to become as informed as possible prior to the procedure, does not add any new requirement and comes at minimal cost.

According to fiscal analysts, the law would require an additional $7,000 from the state in the first year, and $4,000 each year thereafter, to pay for the free ultrasounds and educational materials the state Department of Health would be required to provide under the measure. Fiscal analysts also note that physicians might have extra costs because they would have additional procedure-reporting requirements.

The measure would require the health department to produce printed and video information on abortion procedures, and that facilities performing them would have to make the materials available to any woman seeking an abortion 24 hours before it is performed.

The few minutes of floor discussion prior to the vote centered on whether ultrasounds of a fetus taken at three weeks would show a beating heart, as outlined in the bill.

Rep. David Litvak, D-Salt Lake, proposed an amendment to remove the exact time frame because, according to several local doctors, such images are medically impossible. In addition, he said, the bill could require physicians to pass along medically inaccurate information. The amendment was defeated.

Wimmer agreed there is some disagreement about the timing and possible results of early pregnancy ultrasounds but not enough to warrant changing the legislation.

Prior to the vote, Wimmer reiterated that the necessary, technically difficult language in the bill comes down to a "choice" issue, noting that the phrase "if she chooses" was intentionally added to avoid implying that it imposes any mandates or somehow forces a woman to receive information she may not want.

Wimmer said in committee hearings on the bill that he is focusing on ultrasounds because research on women seeking abortions at clinics around the country shows that 86 percent who see the image of their unborn child before the procedure choose not to go ahead with it.

Another abortion bill sponsored by Wimmer, which would make it a crime for a woman to seek an illegal abortion, awaits full House consideration.

e-mail: jthalman@desnews.com

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