Pa. lawmakers back away from ‘ultrasound’ bill

Should a woman about to have an abortion be forced to have an ultrasound first? It seemed like the Legislature was about to say 'yes' when a majority of lawmakers signed on in support of the concept, but after reading the fine print and hearing complaints, many have backed off.

Rep. Kathy Rapp (R-Warren/Forest/McKean) called her measure, House Bill 1077, the Women's Right-to Know Act, and in her explanation letter to lawmakers said women would have an opportunity to get an ultrasound before having an abortion.

Rep. John Payne (R-Dauphin) and more than 100 of his colleagues signed on as co-sponsors.

“The real issue was insurance companies were refusing to pay for an ultrasound that a woman wanted, that she wanted, before she had an abortion,” Payne said.

The bill, however, changed in committee. The language toughened to state that women must have an ultrasound before an abortion and the monitor must be pointed toward her.

“The bill does not require the woman to look at the screen,” said Maria Gallagher of the Pennsylvania Pro-Life Federation. “The bill would just give her the opportunity to see that image. I've known a lot of women who wish they'd seen that image before having an abortion.”

But more than 30 lawmakers have pulled their names from the bill, refusing to close their eyes to what they call a bait-and-switch.

“I'm offended that the bill got changed,” Payne said. “I'm more offended that the prime sponsor didn't circulate a new memo. I will never again co-sponsor a bill by Kathy Rapp, never.”

The dispute is in the difference between letting a woman get an ultrasound and making her.

“You're saying give them the opportunity. Shouldn't they have the right to say no, I don't want it?” Gallagher said. “It's possible we could look at it and make some tweaks to it.”

For now, the bill has stalled and in an election year isn't likely to resurface anytime soon.

“We are very patient,” Gallagher said. “We have waited nearly 40 years for Roe vs. Wade to be overturned, I think we can wait this out as well.”

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