The sponsor of a controversial bill that could mandate an internal ultrasound before an abortion says he will amend the law to allow a woman to have a choice in the procedure.
“I want to offer legislation that will simultaneously protect life and show respect and compassion towards women,” said Sen. Clay Scofield, R-Cullman, in a statement released Sunday evening. “We just want women to have the right information at their disposal to make an informed decision.”
A message left at Scofield’s office Monday was not immediately returned.
The law as written requires a woman seeking an abortion to submit to an ultrasound test, through “a vaginal transducer or abdominal transducer, whichever would display the embryo or fetus more clearly.” It also requires the physician or technician performing the procedure to display the images and describe them to the woman, including information as to whether the fetus has died.
Physicians and technicians who failed to administer the ultrasound prior to an abortion or an attempted abortion could face up to 10 years in prison and a $15,000 fine. In addition, the law would allow the woman, the father of the fetus or the grandparents to sue the physician for “actual and punitive damages.”
The ultrasound requirement would be waived if an abortion was needed to protect a woman from serious harm or death.
Approximately 61 percent of all abortions performed in Alabama in 2010 took place prior to the eighth week of gestation, according to the Alabama Department of Public Health. Opponents of the bill say abdominal ultrasounds could not provide clear images of the fetus in that time period, effectively forcing women to submit to the invasive procedure.
In the statement, Scofield said he had always intended giving the woman the right to choose the method employed.
“I am committed to amending this law to specify that it is the woman’s choice which method of ultrasound that she would be more comfortable with,” the statement said.
The senator also said he would also propose changes amend the bill to make it clear women who suffered “a miscarriage or other preterm delivery.”
Opponents have also criticized the bill’s lack of exceptions for rape or incest; Scofield’s statement did not mention any amendments that would address those issues. The statement also did not mention any changes to the lawsuit provisions, which critics have claimed would allow a rapist to sue a doctor who aborted his victim’s baby.
Rep. Patricia Todd, D-Birmingham, an opponent of the bill, said Monday the proposed amendments did not change her position on it.
“It’s still an attack on a woman’s right to choose,” she said. “This is a legal procedure, and it does not require an ultrasound . . . It’s really an attempt to make it more difficult for a woman to exercise her rights for a legal medical procedure.”
– posted by Brian Lyman