Sonogram before abortion bill is up for debate in Texas

The Fort Worth Star-TelegramFebruary 17, 2011 

A Texas proposal sparking national controversy because it would require women to have a sonogram at least 24 hours before an abortion is expected to be debated by the Texas Senate as soon as today.

While some Democrats are expected to try to stall or stop the debate, the Republican-led chamber is expected to take up the bill. It would require a doctor to describe limb and fetal development during the sonogram and give the woman a chance to hear the fetus's heartbeat.

The bill's author, Sen. Dan Patrick, R-Houston, maintains that the legislation is geared to empower women.

"The bill will provide a high level of informed consent," he said this month after a committee approved the measure. "It will ensure there are no barriers preventing women from receiving the information to which they are entitled for such a life-changing decision."

Critics say the measure could intimidate some women into not having the abortions they seek.

"Having a sonogram so you can see the fetus is the antithesis of what I hear Republicans spouting out, that government should not regulate our lives," said Steve Maxwell, who heads the Tarrant County Democratic Party. "Why are we not focusing our energies on how we are going to educate our children ... instead of focusing on stupid things like sonograms and voter ID?"

Meanwhile, a nationwide debate is heating up over the decades-old Title X program, which provides health services to low-income people. President Barack Obama has proposed allocating $317 million to the program, while some Republicans propose cutting all funding for the rest of the fiscal year.

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