AUSTIN (KXAN) - After presenting an updated version of his bill relating to sonograms before an abortion, author Sen. Dan Patrick , R-Houston, was still being blasted by a handful of doctors and pro-life advocates in a Senate committee Wednesday.
However, late Wednesday, committee members passed it by a vote of 7-1. It now goes to the full Senate for a vote. Only victims of sexual assault, incest and women carrying a fetus with abnormalities can opt out of all three processes:
Viewing a sonogram of the fetus
Hearing the heartbeat
Getting a description of the fetus from the doctor
A doctor has the option to give a fetus's description to the patient, even if the patient opts out of the first two.
The bill would require doctors to perform sonograms before providing abortions and make the results available to the patient at least 24 hours in advance. It would also require the doctor to allow the patient to receive adoption information.
Witnesses stretched along the Senate chamber walls, preparing to give testimony on the controversial legislation. Dr. Margaret Thompson, an Austin physician who claims to have delivered 15,000 babies in her career, said the law would violate "the basic tenet of medical ethics."
"Senate Bill 16 is bad medicine, bad law and a denial of individual liberty," Thompson said.
Before the State Affairs Committee hearing, Patrick explained his update to the bill, with wording to make it optional for a woman to see the sonogram and hear the fetal heartbeat, instead of requiring the doctor to present those items.
"My intent has never been to force a woman to view a sonogram or hear the heartbeat if she chose not to," said Patrick.
Witnesses like Jonathan Saenz of the Liberty Institute argued the bill would help cut down on the number of abortions in Texas.
There's not a shred of evidence that a single woman would change her mind," said Thompson, who also stated before the committee that she had performed "very few" abortions. "Alabama, which has a similar law in place, has seen no reduction in abortion rates."
Other witnesses said, while sonograms are not required, most doctors in Texas already perform them prior to an abortion. Patrick, who introduced similar, unsuccessful legislation in the last session, has said this measure would simply give women the all the necessary information before having an abortion.
Still, critics complain the law interferes in the relationship between the doctor and patient.
"The serious manipulation of a person's ability to make an intelligent and informed decision is not the person's own free choice," said Dr. Sam Spear, medical director of Planned Parenthood of Central Texas Region.
Groups like Planned Parenthood said the bill is just a disguise to manipulate a patient into keeping the child. Patrick said Planned Parenthood is not giving patients all the options available before an abortion.
"You hear those from Planned Parenthood testify today, 'We already do the sonograms.' 'We show the women.' Well, then, what is their objection to the bill?" he asked.
The sonogram bill was among the list of Gov. Rick Perry's emergency items, those able to be fast-tracked by lawmakers in the first 60 days of the session. So far, other emergency items including a voter ID bill and eminent domain legislation have passed the full Senate and have been sent to the House.
This was an "emergency item" for Rick Perry? I am so glad to know that he considers violating the individual liberty of one-half of the State of Texas a priority over, say, dealing with this state's massive budget deficit, second-to-last rating in the nation on education, fizzling economy, poverty, and everything else that would actually be a moral and just thing for the state government to handle.
This bill insults women. It injects government into the personal lives of women and into the practice of medicine, and it insults women's intelligence.