After some delays, proposed law to require all Florida women seeking an abortion to have an ultrasound -- then have a chance to view the image of the fetus -- is close to a vote in the Florida Senate, after a similar bill passed the House earlier this month.
After almost two hours of debate over two days, the proposal is ready for a final vote later in the week. The bill sponsored by Sen. Dan Webster, a Winter Garden Republican, requires doctors to perform an ultrasound any time a woman comes in seeking an abortion and then let the woman see the scan and explain it to her, unless she signs a form waiving the option to view it.
A woman would be automatically exempt from having to see the scan if she can prove she is a victim of rape, incest, domestic violence or human trafficking. A woman would also be exempt from viewing it if delaying the abortion would cause bodily harm.
Supporters have said the scans help women make an informed medical decision. And Webster said most Florida abortion clinics already require ultrasounds as part of their standard clinic procedures, so he argues the bill only adds the requirement that women have the chance to see the scan.
”This has to do with informed consent,” Webster said. “If you’re going to make an informed decision, this is the best information possible.”
But opponents have said the ultrasound provision is really meant to create another hurdle for women seeking abortions and say the decision to perform an ultrasound should be left to doctors.
"This is kind of like Big Brother coming in and saying 'Ok, you're going to have to do this,'" Sen. Nan Rich, a Weston Democrat, said last week. "None of us went to medical school that I know of...Why is it we think we can provide women better information than a doctor?"
Critics also said the bill would make the procedure more expensive by requiring women to pay for the scans, which can cost between $100 and $200.
Florida law already requires ultrasounds for abortions during the second and third trimesters. The proposed law would extend that requirement to the first twelve weeks of pregnancy, when most abortions are performed.