FRANKFORT, Ky. (AP) - They could choose not to look, but women
seeking an abortion would have to first undergo an ultrasound and
review the results with their doctors, under a measure proposed last week in the Kentucky General Assembly.
Sen. Jack Westwood, a northern Kentucky lawmaker who opposes abortion, introduced the plan that could lead to fines for doctors who don't comply. It would require doctors to perform ultrasounds on women seeking abortions and allow women to see the images before terminating their pregnancies.
Physicians who don't comply could be fined up to $100,000 for the first offense and $250,000 for each subsequent offense.
"I think this has a real good chance," Westwood said. "I don't see how anybody would be opposed to allowing a woman to have as much information about what's going on in her body as possible."
The measure has been assigned to the Senate Judiciary Committee. Similar proposals have been introduced recently in other states.
There are at least 20 abortion-related bills proposed in state legislatures throughout the country, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures.
Currently, Alabama, Louisiana and Mississippi require ultrasounds on women seeking an abortion, and they require the doctor to offer to let the patient see the results. Arizona and Florida require ultrasounds for abortions after the first trimester, said Elizabeth Nash, a public policy associate with the Guttmacher Institute, a nonprofit research center on reproductive health.
None of the others requires the doctor to review the ultrasound with the woman, Nash said. A similar measure to Westwood's was proposed last year in South Carolina, Nash said.
"The bills are not designed to help a woman make an informed choice about continuing her pregnancy or not," Nash said. "Instead they're designed to actively steer her away from choosing an abortion."
But Westwood, R-Crescent Springs, said physicians already do ultrasounds before performing abortions, so the legislation doesn't require an abortion provider to do anything more, other than to brief women on what the image shows.
"It doesn't require the woman to look at it," Westwood said. "The woman still would have the right to avert her eyes under this legislation. There's nothing that would require her to actually look at the ultrasound image."
The legislation is popular among anti-abortion lawmakers.
"It sounds like an idea I can support," said state Rep. Stan Lee, R-Lexington, who has sponsored previous anti-abortion bills in the legislature. "I think anytime you give a patient more knowledge, more information, it's probably a good thing."
Lee said performing ultrasounds would provide women with information about their pregnancies that they need to know.
"Ordinarily, I think most members of the General Assembly would support giving patients more information," he said.
State Sen. Katie Stine, R-Southgate, said the measure would ensure that women receive pertinent facts about their pregnancies.
"It goes back to the whole informed consent concept of making sure women have all of the facts," she said. "It absolutely makes sense to give women the option of seeing that."
Margie Montgomery, who heads the anti-abortion group Kentucky Right to Life, said she was "very much in support" of the plan.
"It's very necessary for women to receive all of the information that they can in making a decision on whether to have an abortion," Montgomery said.
Women should have the right to "accurate and complete information" about their care and should have the option to see an ultrasound of her fetus, said Vicki Saporta, president of the National Abortion Foundation. Ultrasounds should be available, but not mandatory, Saporta said.
"I don't think politicians give women enough credit for carefully considering their decision and understanding what they're doing," Saporta said. "Regardless of an ultrasound image, if women want to have any abortion, they're going to go through with it."
Stine said she expects the measure to easily pass the Senate, but she wasn't as optimistic about its chances in the House.
"I would expect if it was allowed to be voted on, it would pass resoundingly," she said.
State Rep. Kathy Stein, D-Lexington, said the legislation's intent seemed to serve as "another roadblock in the path of a woman who is already making a very difficult choice."
Dona Wells, interim executive director of the American Civil Liberties Union of Kentucky, said the proposal seemed problematic because it could be considered an invasion of women's rights.
"The best way for a woman to be treated is for her to have the option of asking to see the ultrasound if she wants to, but not for her to be forced to see it," Wells said.
(Copyright 2008 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)