New pre-abortion ultrasound law in Louisiana

Photo credit: jeredb on flickr

Starting August 1, 2012, abortion clinics in Louisiana will be required to conduct ultrasounds and then give women 24 hours to make a decision regarding an abortion, thanks to a new bill passed this last legislative session. This bill sets certain guidelines for what is required for the ultrasound and actually requires that the woman be given the opportunity to hear her child’s heartbeat.

The original law already on the books in Louisiana required the abortion doctor to “offer” an ultrasound, but after August 1, a simple offer isn’t going suffice. No, an ultrasound will be a requirement:

Perform an obstetric ultrasound on the pregnant woman; simultaneously display the screen which depicts the active ultrasound images so that the pregnant woman may view them; and make audible the fetal heartbeat, if present, in a quality consistent with current medical practice. Nothing in this Section shall be construed to prevent the pregnant woman from not listening to the sounds detected by the fetal heart monitor, or from not viewing the images displayed on the ultrasound screen.

Once the ultrasound has been conducted and the woman has heard her baby’s heartbeat, the doctor must then explain the ultrasound “in a manner understandable to a layperson” and must give the woman an opportunity to have any questions answered. Furthermore, the doctor must give the woman the option of requesting a printed ultrasound picture.

The abortion facility will be required to inform women of their rights under this law and must have them sign a paper that explains their rights. To safeguard the requirement that the woman be allowed to listen to her baby’s heartbeat, a woman who declines to hear the heartbeat must initial that section of the form, to show that she was given the option but did not want it.

The legislature looked to the recent 2012 Fifth Circuit case, which upheld a similar law that Texas passed:

[T]he provision of sonograms and the fetal heartbeat are routine measures in pregnancy medicine today. They are viewed as ‘medically necessary’ for the mother and fetus. … Denying her up to date medical information is more of an abuse to her ability to decide than providing the information.

A twenty-four-hour time requirement between the ultrasound and an abortion will replace the two-hour requirement that is currently the law. These requirements can be bypassed only in cases of emergency, rape, or incest.

The Senate and House overwhelmingly passed this measure, with ninety-six representatives voting for the measure and only one against in the House and thirty-three senators voting for it with three against it in the Senate! This bill was signed into law last week.

The Louisiana legislature passed several pro-life bills during their last session, including a bill banning abortion after 20 weeks.

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