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RI mulls mandated ultrasounds before abortions

By David Klepper
Associated Press / April 11, 2012
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PROVIDENCE, R.I.—Abortion policy and politics returned to the Statehouse on Wednesday as lawmakers weighed a proposal to require abortion providers to perform fetal ultrasounds on women seeking abortions.

The bill is similar to legislation that failed in the state's General Assembly in previous years. Supporters acknowledge it faces long odds, but that didn't stop several dozen people from attending a standing-room-only hearing on it.

The proposal would require abortion providers to perform fetal ultrasounds and explain the images to patients prior to abortions. Women would not be required to view the images. Abortion providers who fail to give women a chance to see the ultrasound images, however, would risk fines of up to $100,000.

Providence resident Becky Miller, a mother of three children, urged lawmakers to support the legislation, saying women need as much medical information as possible to make informed decisions regarding abortions. She said she hopes women who view ultrasounds would decide against abortions.

"With any other medical procedure, ultrasounds are shown and explained," she said. "I would think we would want women to have this information."

Planned Parenthood already performs ultrasounds prior to abortions and shows the images to patients who want to see them, according to Susan Lloyd Yolen, vice president of Planned Parenthood of Southern New England. But she said it should be up to medical professionals to set medical procedures.

"We oppose any legislation that would allow politicians, not doctors, to determine the protocols for any medical procedure," she said.

Several medical students and physicians told lawmakers to oppose the measure. Nitin Damle, a physician and president of the Rhode Island Medical Society, said requiring fetal ultrasounds would be an "intrusion" into the doctor-patient relationship and has no medical justification.

States around the nation are considering similar legislation. Seven currently mandate pre-abortion ultrasounds.

Barth Bracy, executive director of the Rhode Island State Right to Life Committee, an anti-abortion organization, acknowledged that the bill is unlikely to pass this year. But the bill's sponsor, Democratic Rep. Karen MacBeth, said she remains "hopeful" that the bill could get a vote this year. This is the fourth year she has sponsored the legislation.

The House Judiciary Committee also reviewed eight other abortion-related bills on Wednesday. One would outlaw abortion as a means of gender selection. Another would create new crimes and penalties for assaulting or killing a fetus during an attack on a pregnant woman.

None of the bills has been scheduled for a vote.

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