House Delays Vote on New Abortion Rules

By CHRIS TOMLINSON
|  Wednesday, Mar 2, 2011  |  Updated 3:57 PM CDT
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House Delays Vote on Abortion Rules

Democrats succeeded in delaying a vote on a bill that would require doctors to perform a sonogram before providing an abortion. They objected to how the State Affairs Committee heard testimony but did not reflect it in the official record.

The leader of Democrats in the House said lawmakers from both parties were uncomfortable with how some committee chairs were hearing generic testimony before taking up individual bills.

That testimony was then excluded when the bill was later presented and voted upon. Testimony on a bill is part of the law's official history.

Rep. Jessica Farrar, a Houston Democrat, called the delay a victory for transparency. Rep. Sid Miller, the author of the sonogram legislation, said the bill would come again on Thursday, when debate will resume.

The bill comes up as the Association of Obstetricians and Gynecologists warned that the bill's requirements could harm the fetus.

The proposed law would require doctors to display the sonogram and play the fetal heartbeat for the woman as the doctor describes whether the fetus has arms, legs or internal organs. The woman can look away, but cannot decline the procedure. The woman must also sign an affidavit that she heard the heartbeat and description. A less stringent bill passed the Senate last month.

Doctors warned that if they use the sonogram in the manner described, the prolonged exposure to ultrasound waves could hurt the woman or damage the fetus.

Gov. Rick Perry made the new abortion rules an emergency matter. Proponents say the bill guarantees that doctors provide patients with necessary information. Opponents say it interferes with the doctor-patient relationship and tries to shame women who seek an abortion.

The debate among lawmakers, though, focused on whether the bill was about informing women, or creating a barrier to accessing an abortion.

If passed, the bill would move into conference committee.

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