News Abortion

Idaho Debates Ultrasound Mandate, Joins “Don’t Say Ultrasound” Brigade

Robin Marty

Obviously, there's a memo going out telling lawmakers to not say the "u" word.

Did you get the memo?  If you are a conservative lawmaker in a state pushing a mandatory ultrasound law, odds are, you probably did.

Don’t say “ultrasound.”

First, in Pennsylvania, legislators began to shy away from the word, replacing “ultrasound” with “information.”  Now Idaho, who is also pushing to pass a mandatory ultrasound law, is doing the same.  And their politicians’ statements sound eerily familiar.

Idaho’s co-sponsors of the bill told the Idaho Press:

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“It’s all about empowering the woman and giving her as much information as possible so she can make an informed decision.” Rep. Brent Crane, R-Nampa, co-sponsor.
“When someone makes a decision like that they should have as much information as possible about that decision. This is another piece of information available to them.” Rep. Curt McKenzie, R-Nampa, co-sponsor.
“We want a woman and her doctor to make the most informed decision she can and this just provides more information for her.” Rep. Gayle Batt, R-Wilder, co-sponsor.

We already knew that states were passing astroturf legislation written by anti-choice activists and farmed out to them to submit as law.  Now we can see that their talking points are being fed to them, too.

News Abortion

Forced Waiting Period, Mandated Ultrasound Measures Go Down in Colorado

Jason Salzman

“Women of color and immigrant women already face significant obstacles to obtaining health care," Victoria Gómez Betancourt, spokesperson for the Colorado Organization for Latina Opportunity and Reproductive Rights, said at a news conference. "This means that any extra hoops and hurdles created by these bills will impact already marginalized women most of all."

Colorado pro-choice groups wielded an ultrasound wand in their fight against a GOP-backed bill mandating a 24-hour waiting period and the offer of an ultrasound before a patient could receive abortion care.

Democrats on the state House Health, Insurance, and Environment Committee, joined by one Republican, killed the bill late Thursday.

Holding up the device at a news conference Thursday prior to a hearing on the legislation, NARAL Pro-Choice Colorado’s Executive Director Karen Middleton said, “We are talking about a ten-inch-long medical instrument being inserted into a woman’s vagina. Frankly, I do not believe that kind of legislation passes the grimace test of most Colorado voters regardless of gender.”

To capture fetal activity and imagery during the first trimester, an ultrasound wand is used, rather than the “jelly on the belly” ultrasound procedure employed later in pregnancy, Middleton said.

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“In Virginia,” Middleton continued, “They coined the phrase, ‘Government small enough to fit in one’s vagina.’ That’s not OK with me, and it’s not OK with Colorado health-care providers.”

To emphasize the point, Middleton pulled out a ruler and measured the eight-inch portion of the ultrasound wand that’s inserted.

The bill’s proponents argue that the ultrasound and other information required by the bill is aimed at making sure pregnant people are fully informed about abortion care.

“This is a wonderful bill,” Rep. Patrick Neville (R-Colorado Springs), said Tuesday on KLZ-560-AM’s Rush to Reason show. “The bill is rather simple. It just says a woman has the ability to see an ultrasound prior to an abortion.”

Along with the forced waiting period, the bill mandates not only that pregnant people have the “opportunity” to see an ultrasound of the “unborn child portraying the entire body,” but also that abortion patients are provided with an “oral description of the ultrasound” and the “presence or absence of a heartbeat,” the age of the fetus, and a description of the “child’s ability to feel pain at each stage of development.”

“Statistics show that, I think it’s, some 90 percent of women who actually see the ultrasound before an abortion decide not to go through with it,” said Neville on air. “For [Planned Parenthood], it hurts their revenue stream. So they are not going to like the bill.”

Neville, who chairs the committee that struck down the measure Thursday, did not return a call seeking the source for his figure of 90 percent. The fact-checking organization PolitiFact concluded that a similar statement, made by conservative pundit Rachel Campos-Duffy, was “false.”

The bill, along with a similar measure quashed last year by Colorado Democrats, appears to be based on copycat legislation created by the national anti-choice organization known as Americans United for Life.

A bill mandating ultrasounds prior to an abortion was struck down in 2014 by a North Carolina court. It was not heard by the U.S. Supreme Court, on grounds that it forced doctors to deliver politically motivated speech, even if a patient didn’t want to hear it.

Neville emphasized that this year’s legislation does not mandate an ultrasound, as last year’s did, but instead requires doctors to offer a patient the option of having one. Opponents interpret the language as requiring the procedure, with an option to see the results.

“This bill would turn a ten-minute procedure into a multi-day ordeal, and place the heaviest burden on low-income and minority women who can’t afford to take two days off of work or pay for overnight lodging,” Aaron Lazorwitz, an OB-GYN resident physician, said at the pre-hearing news conference. “Additionally, a 24-hour waiting period means physicians like myself would have to schedule twice as many appointments for each abortion, essentially cutting our ability to see patients in half and limiting access to care for all women.”

Pro-choice advocates echoed Lazorwitz’s comments.

“Women of color and immigrant women already face significant obstacles to obtaining health care, including: poverty, lack of transportation, linguistic and cultural barriers, and restrictions on health care for immigrant women,” Victoria Gómez Betancourt, spokesperson for the Colorado Organization for Latina Opportunity and Reproductive Rights (COLOR), said at the news conference. “This means that any extra hoops and hurdles created by these bills will impact already marginalized women most of all.”

State Sen. Laura Woods (R-Westminster) is the prime sponsor of the bill. Woods is pushing the anti-choice legislation despite warnings that her staunch anti-choice stances may result in her losing her senate seat in November, which would cost the GOP its slim state senate majority.

News Abortion

Want an Ultrasound? Visit a Crisis Pregnancy Center, Idaho Republicans Say

Nicole Knight Shine

Sponsored by Rep. Ron Nate (R-Rexburg), HB 516 requires abortion providers to hand out a list of locations, compiled by the Idaho Department of Health and Welfare, where an abortion patient can get a free ultrasound.

Idaho Republicans are leveraging their control of the state legislature to advance a bill that seems informational on its face, but in practice would likely funnel people seeking abortion care to crisis pregnancy centers (CPCs).

Sponsored by Rep. Ron Nate (R-Rexburg), HB 516 requires abortion providers to hand out a list of locations, compiled by the Idaho Department of Health and Welfare, where an abortion patient can get a free ultrasound.

The House State Affairs Committee voted to introduce the bill Wednesday with the panel’s four Democrats in opposition, the Times-News reported. Democrats, according to Associated Press reports, questioned the vetting process for the list, concerned that most of the facilities with free ultrasounds would be anti-choice CPCs.

State and federal investigations have found that CPCs, typically religious organizations staffed by anti-choice activists who offer free pregnancy tests in addition to ultrasounds, deliberately overstate the risks of abortion to dissuade patients from ending their pregnancies. Investigations have shown that CPC staffers often promise financial support to pregnant people considering abortion care.

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Cities and some states, like California, have enacted laws to reign in CPCs’ deceptive practices.

“This is one of many bills we’ve see that are aimed at shaming women and getting in between women and their abortion providers,” Hannah Brass Greer, legislative director of Planned Parenthood Votes Northwest and Hawaii, said in an interview with Rewire.

Rep. Vito Barbieri (R-Dalton Gardens), voting in favor of the bill, admitted that he sits on the board of a northern Idaho CPC that offers free ultrasounds.

“We have offered free ultrasounds since its inception in 2001,” Barbieri said. “And we are one of several in this state that do so. I’m going to support this bill.”

National Right to Life, one of the nation’s most prominent anti-choice groups, backs the Republican measure.

The House State Affairs Committee could hold a public hearing on the bill as early as next week.

Idaho Republicans advanced a slew of abortion restrictions in 2015, according to Rewire’s database, including GOP-backed measures to limit medication abortion and telemedicine abortion care.

Idaho, according to the Guttmacher Institute, requires parental consent for abortion, has a forced 24-hour waiting period, and state-directed counseling that includes information to discourage a patient from ending a pregnancy. State law also sharply restricts insurance coverage for abortion care.

The most recent figures from the Guttmacher Institute indicate the number of abortions in the state has dropped 8 percent since 2008.

CORRECTION: This post has been updated to clarify the status of the bill.