Partial abortion victory

News Hits reported last month that a handful of bills that would limit the reproductive rights of women were moving through the Michigan Legislature.

Last week, one of those measures passed in the Senate, but in an altered format. The bill initially passed by the state House would have required all abortion providers to perform an ultrasound 24 hours before the procedure, even when an ultrasound isn’t medically necessary. The bill would also have required abortion providers to offer patients the chance to see the ultrasound of the fetus before terminating the pregnancy.

The state Senate, says Rebekah Warren of Lansing-based abortion rights group MARAL Pro-Choice, eliminated the ultrasound requirement. Instead, the Senate bill merely requires doctors to offer women the chance to see the ultrasound if one is medically necessary.

“We still don’t support the bill,” Warren says, “but we do recognize that this bill is much, much better than it was.”

Women’s groups weren’t the only ones who lobbied against mandatory ultrasounds.

“A lot of medical groups had concerns about the legislature practicing medicine,” Warren says. “We applaud the Senate for putting the decision in hands of women and their doctors.”

However, it’s not a total victory — the bill still has troubling implications.

Warren says MARAL’s research hasn’t found any doctors who would refuse showing an ultrasound to any patient making the request. But requiring a doctor to ask a patient if she’d like to see an ultrasound in proximity to an abortion is a move Warren has described as “emotionally manipulative.”

She says there’s another problem as well.

“One of the biggest changes in this legislation is putting a list of places women can get free ultrasounds on the state Web site,” Warren says. Typically, an ultrasound costs between $300 and $700, depending on the stage of the pregnancy.

Some of clinics that offer free ultrasounds, Warren says, are geared toward influencing women against abortion.

“We would rather not have that on the state Web site,” Warren says. After all, as she points out, the state posts no list of abortion providers.

Because the bill’s been altered, it must now go back to the House for another vote. Warren says that’s likely to happen sometime this week.

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