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Editorial: Lawmakers have choice to reject abortion bill

No, Virginia, you’re not the only state to debate invasive abortion bills.

On Monday, Idaho jumped into the fray when the Senate State Affairs Committee voted to introduce a bill to require ultrasounds for women seeking abortions. The Alabama and Pennsylvania legislatures are also considering the requirement. Seven states already have them.

Virginia made national news when a bill backed by Gov. Bob McDonnell and Republican legislators would have required the intrusive vaginal ultrasounds – as opposed to the abdominal versions – to produce a clearer image of the fetus. When that sparked an outcry, the bill was amended.

Similarly, the original version of the bill by Senate Assistant Majority Leader Chuck Winder, R-Meridian, mentioned the more intrusive procedure, but he has since amended it, saying it was always his intention to leave the choice up to the patient and the physician.

Now, if the ultrasound doesn’t provide a clear picture, says Winder, “then no harm is done.” Furthermore, the patient isn’t required to look at the image. In Pennsylvania, the image must be placed in the patient’s line of sight, but she may look away.

This is coercive, demeaning lawmaking at its worst.

It suggests women who have chosen abortions have failed to search their consciences. How do legislators know this? Because the women made a choice they wouldn’t make.

If there is no medical necessity for the ultrasound, then one shouldn’t be ordered. Period. If one is needed to determine whether a particular abortion procedure could be used, that’s a decision that rests properly with the patient and the physician.

Winder says the ultrasound is needed to determine the developmental stage. “We feel that the state does have a right to look after that unborn child,” he says.

The point at which the government looks after the unborn child has been determined by the U.S. Supreme Court in Roe v. Wade, which is why Idaho cannot just ban abortions. That ruling sets viability at well beyond the six to eight weeks of development noted in this bill. The age of the fetus can be determined without an ultrasound, so the mandate isn’t medically necessary – just politically expedient.

Winder could not think of another medical procedure the state mandates. The state already requires that women be given detailed information on abortion and the risks inherent in the various procedures, along with the risks of childbirth. Good enough.

That’s not to say medical breakthroughs aren’t compounding issues surrounding early pregnancy. Stanford researchers are closing in on a simple blood test that can spot birth defects and other traits. The implications for abortion politics are huge.

However, this ultrasound bill isn’t a tough call, because it mandates a medical procedure for a nonmedical purpose. It invades the zone of privacy between patients and physicians in an arrogant bid to trigger some soul searching.

Idaho legislators ought to examine their own consciences and bury this bill.

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