The Sonogram Bill is Back – Government Intrusion on Full Display by Texas Republicans

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Read BOR's previous coverage of the sonogram bill here.

Just when you thought you were finished listening to old white dudes talk about what is best for a woman’s body, the sonogram bill (a somewhat different and stricter version of it, if you can believe that) is back up for debate on the House Floor today, and yes my ears are burning.

What this bill (HB 15 by Sid Miller R-Erath) actually does is require a woman to have a sonogram between 72-24 hours before an abortion procedure is performed. The Department of State Health Services is required to come up with a form for the doctor to administer to the patient requiring her signature and initials at least three different times to make sure that the doctor described certain things and showed the patient certain things.

The DSHS is also required to give a list of abortion alternatives to the patient after the sonogram is administered, at magically no cost to the state! Officially the fiscal note to the bill ie. the budgetary cost of the bill to the State of Texas, is zero dollars, and it is just assumed that the DSHS will just absorb this cost internally. It looks like a lot of state agencies have been ‘absorbing costs’ for a long time given the budget crisis we are in now.

It even states in the bill analysis that the 72-24 hour timeline is for the woman to have “adequate time” to reflect on her decision.

“By providing a minimum 24-hour waiting period, the bill provides an expectant mother adequate time to review the sonogram and carefully weigh the impact of her decision”

Don’t get me wrong I’m all for reflecting on an important personal decision, but not when it’s government enforced reflection time.

The bill goes one step further and states that the clinic providing the sonogram is not allowed to receive a payment, or that there even be an agreement on what the price of the abortion will cost, the same time they meet to do the sonogram.

“The bill prohibits a facility providing obstetric sonogram services and any person at the facility, for the duration of a visit made to the facility to fulfill the obstetric sonogram requirements described in this bill, from accepting any form of payment, deposit, or exchange or making any financial agreement for an abortion or abortion-related service other than for payment of an obstetric sonogram service required by the bill's provisions.”

I don’t know what to say to the women who have to work, much less to anyone in a real emergency situation while going through this republican enforced 72-24 hour waiting period business. If she is on an hourly income she surely has the potential to lose a lot of income if not her job, and not everyone can take multiple sick days.

One of the other many little nightmares in the bill is that it defines what a “medical emergency” is. No really, Republican lawmakers not only don’t trust women to make their own decisions but they don’t trust educated doctors either. This is what happens when Republicans start to score political points on the backs of women and doctors in the State of Texas, you have the Texas Legislature deciding what a “medical emergency” is.

Am I the only one laughing? Where are all my small government conservatives railing against the oppressive healthcare laws when I need them?

In a letter to the Texas Senate State Affair’s Committee Chairman, Robert Duncan (R-Lubbock) The Texas Medical Association states this need for a controlled and thoughtful government in a much more informed substantive way:

“TMA’s member physicians fall on both sides of the abortion debate. TMA’s concerns regarding SB 16, however, do not pertain to that highly political issue. However, TMA is concerned about the dangerous precedent SB 16, and related legislation, would set for health care in Texas—a precedent that would lay the foundation for future lawmakers to establish the details of the interaction between physicians and patients, and allow non-physicians to mandate what tests, procedures, or medicines must be provided to patients and in what timeframe. The sanctity of the patient-physician relationship is the foundation of health care in America, and it must be preserved to assure candid communication and allow patients to evaluate their care options. The Legislature’s role should not be to dictate how physicians and patients communicate with one another or what procedures and diagnostic tests must be performed on a given patient.”

Of course they are referring to the Senate version of the bill (“and related legislation”), which is comparatively tamer than this House version. I appreciate that the TMA differentiates right in the beginning of the letter that there is a difference between the personal politics of this bill and the actual policy the bill enacts.

This is exactly why it is wrong to try to legislate these kinds of personal decisions. It creates an unprecedented scenario of what the government can do and you have nothing short of a public policy disaster.

I personally do not see how state republican lawmakers can be for this kind of legislation where there is practically a script in the bill for the doctor to administer to the patient, and in the same breath rail against the chokehold federal government has on our health care system.

This bill is on the House Floor right now. Let your State Representatives know what you think of this issue, and please tune in to watch.


About Author

Chaille Jolink

Chaille Jolink was born and raised in Austin, Texas and has more than a decade of experience working in Texas politics. Her interest began when she was a Senate Messenger in 2003, and she's since worked for several different legislators and candidates. She started reporting in 2007 for, and has been a contributor to several different publications. Chaille is a graduate of the University of Texas and enjoys fashion, baseball, and playing any team sport. Chaille tweets @ChailleMcCann.

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