BATON ROUGE, La. -- Women seeking abortions in Louisiana will be required to get an ultrasound first, even if they are a victim of rape or incest, under a bill that received final legislative passage Wednesday.
The bill by Sen. Sharon Broome, D-Baton Rouge, was sent to the governor's desk with a 79-0 vote of the state House. Gov. Bobby Jindal supports the measure.
Supporters of the proposal said they hope the ultrasound dissuades some women from getting an abortion at the handful of abortion clinics in Louisiana, by giving them more information about their pregnancies.
"This is a bill that empowers women," Broome said in committee testimony, adding that at least 15 other states have a similar requirement.
Opponents said requiring a procedure that might not be available at a free clinic nearby will make it more difficult and costly for women to get abortions. No one spoke against the proposal on the House floor Wednesday.
An ultrasound at health care facilities around the state can cost anywhere from $80 to more than $300, depending on the location, according to a review of health care pricing websites for hospitals and clinics in Louisiana.
It was unclear how significant the change will really be, however. Testimony from both sides of the debate has indicated more than 95 percent of women who get abortions in Louisiana already have ultrasounds performed, without the requirement in place.
Broome's bill started out in a much more controversial fashion. It would have required anyone seeking an abortion to listen to a detailed description of the fetus that included its dimensions and whether arms, legs or internal organs are visible. The woman also would have been required to get a photograph of the ultrasound.
Those requirements were removed from the bill at its first stop in a Senate committee hearing. The description and the photograph will be optional instead, and a statement must be read to the woman seeking the abortion describing her ability to get the description and photograph and view the ultrasound.
After the proposal was revised, it moved easily through the Legislature with few votes in opposition.
Louisiana has enacted a series of restrictions on abortions over the years, many of which have been overturned in courts. Lawmakers also have placed language in statutes to explain the state only allows abortion procedures because the U.S. Supreme Court has ruled they are legal.
Earlier this week, lawmakers gave final passage to another bill that would give Louisiana's health secretary broader discretion to revoke abortion clinic licenses in case of safety and health concerns. Awaiting debate in the Senate is a House-approved bill that would prohibit medical malpractice coverage of doctors when they are performing elective abortions that aren't required to save the life of the mother.