Sonogram before abortion bill moves ahead in Texas House

The Fort Worth Star-TelegramMarch 4, 2011 

AUSTIN — In the first substantive display of their two-thirds majority, House Republicans on Thursday gave preliminary approval to a bill requiring sonograms before abortions.

The bill is expected to easily win final passage Monday, but its ultimate fate remains uncertain because of key differences with a Senate-passed bill.

The bill by Rep. Sid Miller, R-Stephenville, would require doctors to perform sonograms before abortions and give women the chance to see the image and hear the fetal heartbeat. Women would not be required to receive the information, but doctors could lose their licenses if they do not perform sonograms and make them available.

House members voted largely along party lines, 103-42, to pass the bill after hours of debate over two days. In a replay of the Senate's emotional debate, proponents said the measure would give women access to vital information before making a life-changing decision, while opponents denounced it as an intrusive and thinly veiled attack on abortions.

Gov. Rick Perry has made the bill an emergency item to be fast-tracked through the Legislature. Sen. Dan Patrick, R-Houston, who authored the Senate bill, said the House measure is unacceptable to senators but said he hopes to resolve differences between the two versions.

"I appreciate the hard work and the efforts of the House, and if I could vote for their bill by myself, I'd sign off on it," Patrick said. "But we do not have the votes to pass their bill, and every day that goes by, we lose potentially 40 to 50 lives. So we cannot let this process linger."

The Senate bill contains exemptions for victims of incest and rape, which the House bill does not. Another key difference centers on the amount of time between the sonogram and the abortion.

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