COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) — A measure that would force women seeking an abortion to submit to an ultrasound faced strong scrutiny from lawmakers Wednesday as it was presented before a legislative committee that vets health regulations in Ohio.
Members of the House Health and Aging Committee raised several questions about the GOP-backed bill, which would also require abortion providers to tell women that the procedure increases their risk of breast cancer.
The sponsor of the measure, Rep. Ron Hood, said his bill's ultrasound mandate is aimed at closing a loophole in existing law that requires abortion providers to show pregnant women an ultrasound should one be conducted.
The loophole gives providers "a huge incentive to simply refuse to perform an ultrasound or to attempt to talk the mother out of having one," said Hood, a Republican from Ashville.
The bill states that doctors would have to describe to women "all relevant features" of the fetus visible in an ultrasound image.
The bill does not specify the type of ultrasound women would be subjected to, a fact that led Democratic Rep. Dan Ramos to question whether women in early pregnancy stages would be force to undergo a transvaginal ultrasound, a procedure that is widely regarded as intrusive.
Ramos recalled testimony from a bill the Legislature previously considered that also aimed at curbing the state's abortion rate. The testimony, he said, included a live ultrasound during which a technician said that the "only real way" to find a fetus during the first weeks of a pregnancy is through the invasive procedure.
During his testimony, Hood defended the provision stating that "ultrasounds not only make visible life inside the womb, but unveil the truth of the unborn child's humanity."
At least 21 states regulate the provision of ultrasounds by abortion providers in the United States, according to the Guttmacher Institute, which tracks abortion laws across the country. Under the proposed legislation, Ohio would join Louisiana and Texas in requiring an ultrasound and listen to a doctor describe the image.
Lawmakers also questioned the validity of the bill's provision that would force doctors to tell women that an abortion would increase their risk of developing breast cancer. Experts disagree with this argument.
A group of scientists convened by the National Cancer Institute in 2003 concluded abortion did not raise the risk of breast cancer.
The latest abortion-curbing proposal in Ohio comes after the so-called heartbeat bill fizzled in the Legislature last year.
The measure sought to ban most abortions at the first detectable fetal heartbeat, as early as six weeks into pregnancy. Ohio anti-abortion activists were fiercely divided over the bill, with some fearing a court challenge could undo other abortion restrictions already in place.
Among other provisions, the newest proposal would require abortion providers to notify patients about the providers' monetary profits or losses resulting from practicing abortions.
Doctors in contempt of the legislation could be charged with a first-degree felony and fined up to $1 million.