The legislation, hailed by abortion opponents as a way to entitle women to more information, would be in addition to a 24-hour waiting period and state-dictated medical information that already are required.
But others questioned further government intrusion into a difficult, personal decision that would mandate certain tests, information and procedures.
The bill has been challenged by both the Texas Medical Association and the State Association of Obstetricians and Gynecologists as an intrusion into the physician-patient relationship.
The doctor’s groups said the bill interferes with a doctor’s judgment and would violate medical ethics in situations where patients tell doctors they don’t want certain information, but the doctors are forced to tell them about it anyway.
After a long, often emotional debate, the Senate voted 21-10 on the proposal. It has strong support from Gov. Rick Perry and House Republican leaders and is likely to become law. A House committee is expected to debate the measure next week.
Sen. Dan Patrick, R-Houston, who authored the bill for the past two sessions, said the bill has been leavened with “wisdom, counsel and the hand of God.”
Under his legislation, women must be given the opportunity to see a sonogram that must be taken within two hours of the abortion procedure and hear a fetal heartbeat, if detectable. She can decline those options, but doctors still must describe what they see in the sonogram, including development of the body and organs.
The oral description can be waived only in instances of severe fetal abnormality, rape or incest, or for a minor who has been exempted from the state's parental-consent law under the order of a judge.
If a woman doesn't want to hear a description of the sonogram but must anyway, Patrick said, she can always try to tune it out.
“This bill was never intended to force a woman to do something she doesn’t want,” he said.
Sen. Leticia Van de Putte, D-San Antonio, challenged him about pushing so hard for this bill, but sometimes opposing funding for early childhood care, school programs and health insurance for children because of budget concerns.
“We seem to worship what we cannot see, but once it’s here” there is little support to keep the child healthy, educated and protected, Van de Putte said.
Women in Texas would have to be offered a fetal sonogram and hear a heartbeat before having an abortion under legislation approved by the Senate on Thursday. Critics questioned the government intrusion into a difficult, personal decision that would mandate physician actions.
Doctors would have to provide the test, along with the sound of a fetal heartbeat, before the procedure could be done.