Is a required ultrasound a barrier to abortion?

Abortion is being debated once again on the campaign trail and in state capitals. Lawmakers in Virginia could vote as early as Wednesday on a law that would require women to have an ultrasound before getting an abortion. A similar law is already on the books in Texas. CBS News Anna Werner looks into what sort of effect this is having.

A 23-year old patient in Dallas, who asked not to be identified, is undergoing the new procedure required by law to obtain an abortion in Texas.

She must get a sonogram and is also required to listen to the doctor's verbal description of what is seen on the monitor. She told us she felt pressured by the process.

"Kinda take my choice away to have an abortion," the patient said.

"Takes your choice away?" asked Werner.

"Or, they're trying to sway my choice on the decision that I already made."

Also under the law, patients like this must wait at least another 24 hours before getting the abortion.

"It's a burden for the woman, and the people who passed this law intended for this to be burden," said Dr. Curtis Boyd, who runs the abortion clinic.

He added: "If you can't make it illegal, make it as rare as possible, and their sense of making it rare is not providing contraception, but it's by putting up barriers to access to services."

But the law's sponsor says the intent is just the opposite. Republican State Senator Dan Patrick insists this law was designed to address what he says was a lack of adequate health care for women seeking abortions.

"Making sure women have all the information they need to have, making sure they're treated the same as they would before any other major medical procedure, before they make that decision. Because an abortion, is the only medical procedure whose goal is to take a life," he explained.

"What is it that you think a woman going in for an abortion does not know?" Werner asked.

"I just believe that a woman going in for a major procedure like an abortion -- it's taking a life -- has the same right to the same type of medical care and information that she would have if she were going in for a broken leg, or a cancerous tumor, or any other major surgery," said Patrick.

One of the requirements of the law is that only doctors or certified sonographers perform the sonogram. It's a requirement unique to women wanting abortions: CBS News found there are no similar requirements for any other sonogram procedures in Texas.

"For other ultrasound procedures, doctors don't usually perform those procedures," Werner mentioned to Patrick.

"I'm not gonna speak to the other procedures," he said. "I'm focused on this bill, and this legislation is about a procedure that takes a life."

That legislation also requires that doctors to ask if patients want to hear the fetal heartbeat. The patient we told you about said yes.

"Did it make any difference to you in your decision?" Werner asked the unidentified woman.

"A little bit. It made it harder," she replied.

But it did not change her mind. Two days later, she still had her abortion.

  • Anna Werner

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