KHN Morning Briefing

Summaries of health policy coverage from major news organizations.

States Move To Require Ultrasounds Before Abortions

Various states have passed or are considering bills to tighten abortion regulations.

"Florida's Republican-led Senate pushed through an 11th-hour provision Wednesday that would require women seeking an abortion in their first trimester of pregnancy to pay for ultrasound exams … unless they could prove they were a victim of rape, domestic violence or incest by providing a copy of a restraining order, police report, medical record, or other court order or documentation," The Associated Press/Miami Herald reports. Lawmakers estimated that the cost of the ultrasound averages "between $350 and $400. ... A second change to the measure approved Wednesday would prevent any tax dollars from being used to pay for elective abortions although it would not pertain to victims of rape or incest" (Kallestad, 4/28).

The Palm Beach Post: "The measure came as a surprise to Democrats; it had not been vetted through any committees this year and Senate Republicans added it as a last-minute amendment to a nursing home reform package Wednesday. … Florida law already requires ultrasounds for abortions after the first trimester of pregnancy. But more than 90 percent of the procedures take place in the first trimester" (Kam, 4/28).

The Florida Sun Sentinel: "The amendment was tacked on to an otherwise innocuous bill dealing with drug-free workplaces by Sen. Andy Gardiner, R-Orlando. A rookie senator, Gardiner had been under attack from religious conservatives for failing to push through another abortion bill regarding parental notification. The bill, now with the ultrasound mandate, is set for a final vote Thursday in the Senate. After that, if approved, it moves to the House, which is deeply conservative and voted for the ultrasound bill in 2008. ... The abortion coverage ban would apply to Florida residents and businesses who buy insurance under so-called health exchanges, which will be established as a result of Obama's health care law" (Hafenbrack, 4/28).

The Times-Picayune: Louisiana also is considering a bill that would require women to have an ultrasound before getting an abortion. "The Senate Health & Welfare Committee sent Senate Bill 528 to the floor after removing a section that would have required a 'screen depicting the active ultrasound images' placed within the woman's view during the procedure and for her to receive an explanation of what is on the screen. Under the new language, women would have to be offered a chance to see an image of the fetus and receive a printout, but would have the right to refuse. Even without the language, Louisiana would become one of about 15 states that require ultrasounds before an abortion can be performed if the bill by Sen. Sharon Weston Broome, D-Baton Rouge, becomes law" (Moller, 4/28).

Politico: "On Tuesday, the Oklahoma Senate passed one of the country's most restrictive abortion laws, requiring that women seeking an abortion have a viewable ultrasound and listen to a detailed description of the fetus prior to the procedure. The law came on the heels of a stringent Nebraska measure, passed two weeks earlier, banning abortion at 20 weeks gestation. Taken together, the two new laws represent some of the most aggressive abortion legislation. … Fourteen other states do require the provision of an ultrasound prior to abortion, but Oklahoma goes further by requiring both the description of the fetus and that the ultrasound monitor be in sight." The Oklahoma law passed over "objections from Gov. Brad Henry (D), who had previously vetoed the bill." Meanwhile, a Nebraska law "bans abortion after 20 weeks gestation on the basis that the fetus could feel pain. When it takes effect in October, the new regulation will likely be challenged as unconstitutional, largely because it bans pre-viability abortions" (Kliff, 4/28).

Tulsa World: The only clinic in the city that performs abortions is following the law while also challenging it. "'We don't like it, but we're following it,' said Linda Meek of Reproductive Services of Tulsa. ... A hearing is scheduled for Monday in Oklahoma County District Court for a temporary restraining order against enforcement of the ultrasound law. The New York-based Center for Reproductive Rights filed suit on behalf of Reproductive Services and the Norman doctor shortly after the Senate's override vote. Opponents of the new law say it is the most extreme measure of its kind in the country" (Krehbiel, 4/29).

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