DES MOINES, Iowa — Women seeking an abortion would have to undergo an ultrasound and be offered the chance to see the image under legislation approved by a House panel on Wednesday, though the bill likely won't get through the Democratic-controlled Senate.
The bill would require a physician to perform an ultrasound on a woman, then ask her if she wants to see the image, be given an oral description and hear the potential heartbeat of the fetus. Physicians who fail to take those steps could be subject to fines and jail time.
Supporters on the subcommittee that approved the bill, which must be advanced in the House's human resources committee by Friday to beat a legislative deadline, said it would allow a woman to make an informed decision about an abortion.
"There are two patients in this situation," said Rep. Joel Fry, R-Osceola and a co-sponsor of the bill. "While I understand the concern for the woman as well, I believe there is also a child that has a voice that no one hears in this process."
Chuck Hurley with The Family Leader Foundation, a conservative group, echoed the sentiments before showing a brief video of an ultrasound.
But, Erin Davison-Rippey with Planned Parenthood of the Heartland said medical care decisions should stay between a physician and a patient.
"The tenor of this bill really is demeaning and could force a doctor into a situation that feels like she or he is manipulating a woman in the exam room," she said. "It feels like an effort to shame a woman who has made a decision to end her pregnancy."
Rep. Beth Wessel-Kroeschell, D-Ames, was on the subcommittee and didn't sign off on the bill, questioning a section that states physicians could face jail time and fines if they didn't comply. She also said the bill sets a dangerous precedent in interfering with the physician and patient relationship.
"How can you trust your doctor? Or why even go to a doctor? Why don't they just come to the Legislature for us to tell them what they need," she said. "We need to allow for that privacy and we can't set the standards of care for medical procedure."
Similar resistance by Democrats is likely to stall the bill if it makes it to the Senate, which has blocked other abortion-related measures.