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Tuesday, March 25, 2008
South Dakota, Ohio Enact Ultrasound Legislation
South Dakota, Ohio Enact Ultrasound Legislation
By: Joe Murray, The Bulletin

The governors of South Dakota and Ohio have signed legislation requiring doctors to offer pregnant women the chance to view a sonogram of their unborn child before performing any abortion related services. By enacting the legislation, South Dakota and Ohio join 11 other states that have taken steps to ensure a woman's choice to terminate her pregnancy is an informed choice.

According to the new South Dakota law, "No facility that performs abortions may perform an abortion on a pregnant woman without first offering the pregnant woman an opportunity to view a sonogram of her unborn child." The law also requires the facility to keep a written record of the woman's response, complete with signature.

The data collected from the clinic must then be compiled in an annual report to the state health department. The report will document data including, but not limited to, the number of women refusing and accepting the sonogram offer, as well as whether those women who went on to terminate their pregnancy.

Alabama, Arkansas, Idaho, Indiana, Georgia, Michigan, Mississippi, Oklahoma, Utah and Wisconsin are among the other states with similar laws, while Louisiana requires an ultrasound be performed if a woman is over 20 weeks pregnant and the option to view the ultrasound is made.

In a prepared statement, Mary Spaulding Balch, National Right to Life's State Legislative Director, noted the South Dakota law, "reflects a national trend that recognizes the capacity of ultrasound technology to provide mothers with the opportunity to see the development of their unborn child in real-time" and the people of South Dakota "understand that mothers need as much information as possible before making the life and death decision of abortion for their unborn children."

Pro-choice activists in South Dakota were cautiously accepting of the new law, but still voiced concerns lawmakers might be trying to hinder abortion rights.

"We are in favor of women receiving all of the information they need to make private health care decisions," said Kate Looby, South Dakota State Director for Planned Parenthood Minnesota, North Dakota, South Dakota. But the pro-choice activist added, "We're opposed to politicians .... practicing medicine."

While the passage of the measure in South Dakota was not a surprise for the pro-life movement, Gov. Mike Rounds has declared himself to be pro-life, the decision of Gov. Ted Strickland, a longtime supporter of abortion rights, was deemed a major victory.

Mr. Strickland's support of the measure, however, is not necessarily evidence of a change of heart, as pro-choice organizations in Ohio did not oppose the ultrasound requirement, thus making his signature a politically safe move.

Joe Murray can be reached at jmurray@thebulletin.us


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