National Partnership for Women & Families

In the News

Wyo. Abortion Bills Fixate on Fetal Heartbeat, Pre-Abortion Requirements

Wyo. Abortion Bills Fixate on Fetal Heartbeat, Pre-Abortion Requirements

January 15, 2013 — Two proposed measures before the Wyoming Legislature emphasize the fetus' heartbeat in attempting to restrict abortion, the Casper Star-Tribune reports.

House 'Heartbeat' Bill

State Rep. Kendell Kroeker (R) has proposed legislation (HB 97) that would amend Wyoming law to state that abortion is prohibited once there is a "a detectable fetal heartbeat." Ohio considered similar legislation last year.

The current Wyoming law states that abortion is prohibited once the fetus has "reached viability." The new measure defines a "legal" heartbeat as "cardiac activity or steady and repetitive rhythmic contraction of the fetal heart within the gestational sac that is detectable using standard medical equipment."

The ability to detect a fetal heartbeat in early pregnancy depends on the type of equipment used, according to Travis Klingler, an ob-gyn in Wyoming. Klingler's practice uses a transvaginal ultrasound, which can detect a heartbeat around the fifth week of pregnancy, as part of prenatal care, but other practices might use a handheld Doppler device, which can detect a heartbeat around nine or 10 weeks, he said.

Senate Bill Includes Ultrasound, Heartbeat, List of 'Risks'

Meanwhile, state Sen. Leslie Nutting (R) proposed a bill (SF 88) that would require doctors and women to complete several steps prior to an abortion. The woman would have to sign a document stating that she has been notified of the opportunity to view an ultrasound and try to hear the heartbeat. It would also require that the physician describe the fetus' gestational age and anatomical and physiological characteristics from the ultrasound.

In addition, the bill would mandate that physicians tell women at least 24 hours before the abortion about alternatives, the abortion method, medications, side effects and risks, including "infection, hemorrhage, cervical or uterine perforation, danger to subsequent pregnancies, the increased risk of breast cancer and the death of the unborn fetus."

The measure also would require that women receive a list of clinics that provide no-cost ultrasounds. Sharon Breitweiser, executive director of the Wyoming chapter of NARAL Pro-Choice America, said that most clinics that provide no-cost ultrasounds are operated by religious, antiabortion groups. She noted that the bill does not include a list of abortion providers or ways to get affordable contraception.

Breitweiser added that studies have discredited alleged risks mentioned in the bill, including the increased risk of breast cancer (Hancock, Casper Star-Tribune, 1/13).