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Michigan Republican ultrasound bill places new restrictions on abortion

Image has not been found. URL: http://images.americanindependent.com/2010/08/MahurinElephant_Thumb.jpgState Sen. David Robertson (R-Grand Blanc Twp.) has introduced a bill that would require doctors to offer keepsake ultrasound photos to women who are seeking abortions.

The bill requires that doctors perform an ultrasound, offer a description of the ultrasound image, an opportunity to listen to the heartbeat of the embryo or fetus, and a hard copy of the image.

All of this is to be done at least two hours before the abortion procedure and women would be required to sign a statement acknowledging that these offers had been made.

Robertson did not return a call to talk about the bill, but both those who support the bill and those who oppose it agree that its intent is to dissuade women from having abortions.

A similar bill has been introduced in the House.

“We are all for maximum information being given to any woman seeking an abortion, or any other major operation, for that matter,“ said James Muffett, president of Citizens for Traditional Values which supports the legislation. “It seems quite suspect that abortion providers do not already do this. Maybe they know that there really is a living baby in the womb and if the mother saw that, she might change her mind.”

It is already common practice for abortion providers to use ultrasound to date pregnancies and to rule out ectopic pregnancy.

Alexa Kolbi-Molinas, staff attorney at ACLU Reproductive Freedom Project said that the new requirements proposed in the Robertson bill are designed to shame, humiliate and punish women who seek abortions.

The ACLU has been following efforts to enact new requirements for ultrasound use across the nation and Kolbi-Molinas said that while the proposed Michigan law requires doctors to offer detailed ultrasound information, in some states the proposed laws seem to force women to watch and listen to ultrasound presentations.

“Any women who wants to look at the screen should be able to,” she said. “But what we are seeing is that women are being forced to sit there … Some laws are not even clear that she is allowed to put her fingers in her ears.”

Being pressured to view an ultrasound could be traumatic.

“There is no exception for a woman who has been raped or a woman who actually had a wanted pregnancy and learns that there is something wrong with the fetus that makes it unviable,“ she said. It seems wrong to make a woman look and listen to a description under those circumstances, she said. “It’s hard to say that these laws are about helping women when you look at what they would really do.”

“This bill does nothing to improve health care,” said Sarah Scranton, executive director of Planned Parenthood Advocates of Michigan. “It is clearly just another bill to reduce access to abortion.”

“Since the beginning of the year we’ve seen nearly 20 anti-choice bills introduced in the House and Senate and some have already moved through committee.”

Scranton said that Planned Parenthood expects that bills to restrict access to abortion and birth control will move through the legislature once the budget is finalized.

“If lawmakers were really concerned about reducing the need for abortion they would fund family planning and give women the tools to avoid pregnancy,” she said. “Instead, the state House and Senate Department of Community Health subcommittees have both approved budgets that completely eliminate all state funding for pregnancy prevention services.”

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