The ultrasound issue is the top priority this session for anti-abortion groups, and supporting it is a way for politicians to prove their conservative credentials.
Gov. Rick Perry touted the proposal at an anti-abortion rally at the state's Capitol. Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst -- who had just spoken at a news conference featuring a live ultrasound -- also spoke at the rally. So did Attorney General Greg Abbott, who said that if the bill becomes law and is challenged, he would "aggressively defend" its constitutionality. All three are expected to run for office in 2010.
The bill would require doctors to show an ultrasound image to women seeking abortions, make the fetal heartbeat audible and talk about the picture and sound. The women would not be required to look at the image.
Opponents say the proposal interferes with the doctor-patient relationship and shames women who are already in a difficult situation.
But Texas officials are all for it. "It gives an opportunity to a woman ... to listen to the sonogram, hear the heartbeat and perhaps change her mind, because once a procedure is done ... there's no going back," Dewhurst said at the news conference.
Dr. Scott Spear, medical director for Planned Parenthood in Austin, said that it is already their procedure that all women who have an abortion at their facility get an ultrasound and are offered the chance to see the image.
"This legislation is getting involved in the examining room and prescribing what I need to say -- things that aren't necessarily in the patient's best interest," Spear said.
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