February 7, 2013 — Michigan lawmakers have introduced a bill (HB 4187) that would require women to receive an ultrasound at least two hours before obtaining an abortion, Salon reports. State Rep. Joel Johnson (R) sponsored the bill, which has 22 co-sponsors.
While the bill does not explicitly state that a transvaginal ultrasound must be used, it calls for ultrasound equipment that "is capable, in comparison to other ultrasound imaging equipment at the location, of providing the most visibly clear image of the gross anatomical development of the fetus and the most audible fetal heartbeat."
Elizabeth Nash, state issues manager for the Guttmacher Institute, noted that most abortions occur in the first trimester of pregnancy, when a transvaginal ultrasound would be needed to produce a clear image. The bill's language is "mushy" but "points to using a transvaginal ultrasound," she said, adding, "A transabdominal ultrasound doesn't show what I think they would define as the clearest image."
The bill also states that its goal is to "protec[t] the interests of the woman seeking an abortion by assessing the viability of the fetus and confirming the approximate gestational age of the fetus, as this information is necessary in order to determine appropriate medical care for the woman seeking an abortion."
A spokesperson for state House Democratic Leader Tim Greimel said, "This is an unnecessary and unwarranted intrusion into the health decisions of women."
Despite the objections from the Democratic leader, Salon notes that "Michigan is pretty conservative when it comes to abortion measures." Gov. Rick Snyder (R) recently signed into law a series of abortion restrictions -- including provisions to screen women seeking abortions and to regulate abortion clinics similarly to hospitals -- and NARAL Pro-Choice America gives the state an "F" for its abortion laws.
Similarities to Other States
Donna Crane, policy director at NARAL, said language similar to Johnson's bill has appeared in measures in eight other states.
In Virginia last year, lawmakers amended an ultrasound bill after controversy over mandating an ultrasound that similarly would have needed to be transvaginal. However, Guttmacher's Nash noted that under the legislation, which became law, an abdominal ultrasound is still required. "That's why it wasn't a real success story," she said.
Crane added, "If [the ultrasound is] forcible and it's not the doctor or the woman's decision, we oppose it. The Virginia one got the extra attention, but I think [it's] the principle that's important" (Rayfield, Salon, 2/6).
Repro Health Watch — an exciting new edition of the Women’s Health Policy Report — compiles and distributes media coverage of proposed and enacted state laws and ballot initiatives affecting women's access to comprehensive reproductive health care, as well as litigation in response to those provisions.