January 6, 2016 — Tennessee Rep. Rick Womick (R) has proposed a measure (HB 1459) that would require women to receive an ultrasound before obtaining abortion care, the Tennessean reports. The state's legislative session begins Jan. 12.
According to the Tennessean, about half of all U.S. states have a law regarding abortion care and ultrasound imaging. Of those, 10 states mandate that a physician inform a woman that she may view the ultrasound and three states require that a woman receive and view an ultrasound prior to an abortion (Boucher, Tennessean, 1/5).
Womick last year withdrew a similar measure that would have required a woman to undergo an ultrasound 72 to 24 hours before an abortion. In addition, it would have mandated that doctors show the ultrasound image to the woman and describe it to her if she chooses not to look, and to make the fetal heartbeat audible.
Womick withdrew the bill amid concerns that the mandatory delay in the bill could conflict with another measure (SB 1222) that aimed to implement a 48-hour mandatory delay before abortion (Women's Health Policy Report, 4/1/15). Gov. Bill Haslam (R) signed the 48-hour mandatory delay bill in May 2015 (Women's Health Policy Report, 5/19/15).
Details on New Measure
The new bill would require that a woman receive an ultrasound at the start of the 48-hour mandatory delay period before an abortion. In addition, physicians are not permitted to provide abortion care until after a woman who has received an ultrasound signs a waiver stating that she was given a chance to view the ultrasound and to hear the fetal heartbeat, if present. The measure includes an exception for medical emergencies.
Planned Parenthood Responds
Jeff Teague, president and CEO of Planned Parenthood of Middle and East Tennessee, said the new bill's ultrasound requirements already are standard medical practice. According to the Tennessean, most abortion providers perform an ultrasound prior to an abortion, although some abortion-rights opponents try to require women to view the ultrasound images in an attempt to dissuade them from seeking abortion care.
Teague added that the bill language forcing women to sign the waiver is "an attempt by politicians to frighten women who are often in emotional or stressful situations." He continued, "We know that doctors and other medical professionals know what's best to care for their patients, and don't need politicians telling them how to deliver care" (Tennessean, 1/5).