A Republican lawmaker wants to require women seeking abortions to have an ultrasound and listen to the heartbeat of the fetus at least one hour before the procedure, saying it would give them the necessary information to make an informed decision.
HB 2416, a wide-ranging bill sponsored by Rep. Kimberly Yee, R-Phoenix, would mandate that doctors point out the fetus’ various extremities, describe its position and offer a picture of the ultrasound to the woman. It would also ban phone or video consultations with doctors before abortions.
“Choosing an abortion is a decision that’s wrought with consequences, both physical and emotional,” Yee said. “We in this community need to make sure the decision can be made fully informed.”
The measure would redefine abortion under Arizona law to include abortion by pill, placing new surgical accreditation requirements on facilities that dispense the pills even if they don’t perform surgeries.
The House Health and Human Services Committee passed the bill Wednesday on a 6-3 vote, with Democratic Reps. Sally Ann Gonzalez and Matt Heinz of Tucson and Katie Hobbs of Phoenix dissenting. It was headed to the floor by way of the Rules Committee.
The bill is one of many introduced this session that would further limit abortion. Others would restrict state or tax money from being used at clinics or practices that perform or support abortions and ban the use of student tuition dollars to provide abortion training at public universities or community colleges.
Several nurses and supporters of HB 2416 described to the committee scenes where women originally set on abortions changed their minds after seeing ultrasounds. Opponents said the bill would restrict access to health care in rural areas and place new burdens on facilities that perform abortions, possibly raising costs for patients.
Gonzalez, one of those who voted against the bill, said women in rural areas like Arizona’s reservations would be financially strained by being forced to drive to Tucson or Phoenix for care if they weren’t allowed to consult with doctors by phone or video conferencing.
“It will put more emotional stress on mothers and fathers having to make these difficult decisions,” she said, especially on reservations where telemedicine is more common.
Dr. DeShawn Taylor, an OB-GYN and medical director for Planned Parenthood Arizona, said making it more difficult to get an abortion pill and increased waits before procedures might instead push women toward later-term, more dangerous surgical abortions.
“This does nothing to improve the safety of the abortion pill,” she said. “All it does is make it more difficult for women to access this type of care.”
Planned Parenthood doesn’t currently practice telemedicine for abortions, Taylor said, and already does an ultrasounds before every procedure, including offering each woman a picture.
The general community standard is to do an ultrasound before any abortion, she said.
Democrats Heinz, who is also a hospital physician, and Hobbs said there are few other medical procedures that require such a high level of doctor consent.
Government micromanagement of medical procedures could increase costs and delay care, Heinz said.
Deborah Sheasby, a lobbyist for the conservative Center for Arizona Policy, which supports the bill, said abortion pills should be regulated the same way as surgeries.
“I don’t see why we need to wait for a tragedy to occur in abortion medication before we make changes,” she said.