Gov. Perry signs state's new sonogram bill into law



Posted on May 24, 2011 at 5:41 PM

Updated Tuesday, May 24 at 8:56 PM

Governor Rick Perry signed the state's new sonogram bill into law Tuesday.  He was surrounded by supporters including Texas Senator Dan Patrick and State Representative Sid Miller.

Groups including Texans for Life and the Texas Catholic Conference also had representatives there.

The governor said "every life lost to abortion is a tragedy, " and he commended those who worked hard this session to turn this bill into law.

The new law requires doctors to perform a sonogram and make the image of the fetus and the fetal heart beat available to the woman before performing an abortion. The doctor is also required to describe the fetus.

After the sonogram, a woman must wait 24 hours before she can get an abortion. An exemption is allowed in cases of rape or incest and when the fetus has fatal abnormalities.

The bill also allows a woman to opt out of hearing the heartbeat and seeing the image.  To do so, they would have to sign a statement before the sonogram.  She can only opt out of hearing a description of the fetus if she is 17 and under, if the fetus has a fatal abnormality, or if the fetus is the result of rape or incest.

If the woman lives more than 100 miles from an abortion facility the waiting period is shortened from 24 to two hours.

“So this just puts into law what doctors are already doing in abortion facilities in Texas,” said Joe Pojman of the Texas Right to Life Alliance. “But what it does do is give women the right to to the same information that you and I considering any other medical procedure have a right to get."

Pojman estimates every year more than 81,000 abortions are performed in Texas.

“We cannot ban abortion,” Pojman said.  ”But we can guarantee that women have the right to all the information they need before they have an abortion.”

Now that the sonogram bill has been signed into law, proponents believe it could save as many as 15,000 unborn Texans per year.

“We've seen, unfortunately, women's health really used as a political football this session,” said Sarah Wheat of Planned Parenthood.

Wheat says they are disappointed the bill went through, but she says their biggest concern is lawmakers could cut two-thirds of the budget for women's healthcare in Texas, potentially leaving 400,000 women without access to breast and cervical cancer screenings and other tests.

“That's just basic health health care that a lot of women really depend on,” Wheat said. “Instead what we've seen is a lot of time and energy go into passing the law that was signed today by the governor.”

The new law takes effect Sept. 1.