The Republican bill hurtling through the state Legislature mandating that women seeking abortions first undergo ultrasounds would require doctors or medical technicians to perform a ritual-like process intended to impress upon the women whatever lifelike characteristics their fetus is already exhibiting. Passed by the state Senate earlier today, the bill will most likely be taken up by the state Assembly tomorrow and has the support of Gov. Scott Walker.
The legislation creates exceptions in cases of medical emergencies, rape and incest; otherwise, state law would mandate that abortion providers do the following, step by step, before performing an abortion:
- During the ultrasound, the physician must "provide a simultaneous oral explanation ... including the number of unborn children and presence and location of the unborn child."
- The doctor must also "display the ultrasound images so that the pregnant women may view them," though the woman may not be forced to look at the pictures.
- Regardless, the doctor must "provide a medical description of the ultrasound images including the dimensions of the unborn child and a description of any viewable external features and internal organs of the unborn child."
- If possible, the procedure must also "provide a means for the pregnant woman to visualize any fetal heartbeat," and this opportunity must be accompanied by "a simultaneous oral explanation of the visual display of the heartbeat in a manner understandable to a layperson." As with the larger images, the woman may not be required to view the ultrasound readings of the heartbeat.
Opponents of the changes include the Wisconsin Medical Society (which represents doctors in the state), Planned Parenthood Wisconsin, the Wisconsin Public Health Association, the Wisconsin Academy of Family Physicians and the Wisconsin Association of Local Health Departments and Boards. The Pro-Life Wisconsin organization has backed the ultrasound requirements but opposes the exceptions for rape and incest, whereas full-throated supporters of the bill include Wisconsin Right to Life Inc. and the Wisconsin Catholic Conference.
The senate bill's principal sponsor is a lawmaker from southeastern Wisconsin, State Sen. Mary Lazich (R-New Berlin).
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