Idaho moves closer to requiring ultrasounds prior to abortions

BOISE, Idaho (AP) - Idaho stepped closer to requiring women to undergo an ultrasound examination of their fetus before terminating a pregnancy, a measure anti-abortion advocates hope will convince more women to opt against such a procedure.

Boise Sen. Chuck Winder's legislation cleared the Senate State Affairs Committee Wednesday on a 7-2 vote, with Republicans favoring it and Democrats voting against.

More than 200 people packed the emotional two-hour hearing. Opponents compared the bill to laws favored by Afghanistan's Taliban, while advocates argued those who would oppose requiring women to view their fetus were comparable to Holocaust deniers.

Requiring doctors to perform an ultrasound, then ask women to view ultrasound images of their fetuses and listen to its heartbeat, would provide them with up-to-date information about the status of their fetus that would help them recognize the consequences of their decision, said Kerry Uhlenkott, of Right to Life of Idaho.

"Clearly, real-time ultrasound images of the unborn child are truthful and not misleading," Uhlenkott told the panel before the vote.

Idaho is among 11 states that require verbal counseling or written materials to include information on accessing ultrasound services, according to the Guttmacher Institute.

At least seven states mandate that an abortion provider perform an ultrasound on each woman seeking an abortion, and require the provider to offer the woman the opportunity to view the image.

Winder altered his original proposal, which could have required a transvaginal ultrasound in which a device is inserted into a woman's vagina rather than an abdominal ultrasound, to instead leave such decisions up to medical providers in consultation with the patient.

Still, that appeared to do little or nothing to assuage the concerns of foes of the measure that the bill was an example of government leaders inserting themselves into medical decisions best left to women and their doctors in the privacy of an office.

They also complained that requiring a woman to view an ultrasound could add significantly to costs of an abortion procedure, raising additional concerns that the measure provides no exceptions for medical emergencies or in instances when a woman is victim of rape or incest.

"The government is not a medical provider. This is a violation of medical privacy between a woman and her physician," said Yvette Sedlewicz. "Being forced to view it is cruel and unusual punishment."

The bill now heads to the Senate floor for what's likely going to be subject to divisive debate.

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