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House Continues Debate on Sonogram Bill Amendments

Rep. Carol Alvarado, D-Houston proposes an amendment to kill the sonogram bill.
Photo by Ryland Barton/ KUT.
Rep. Carol Alvarado, D-Houston proposes an amendment to kill the sonogram bill.

The debate over HB 15—which would require physicians to provide a detailed description of a fetus to its would-be mother—continues to drag through the House this afternoon as Democrats put up a gaggle of amendments and arguments against the bill.

The bill is expected to be approved by the House sometime this evening.

House Democrats don’t have enough votes to stop the bill and have resorted to slowing down its progress. Yesterday the bill was stymied when Democrats made a procedural objection, sending it back to committee. The bill was immediately sent back and is on the floor today.

For the second day in a row, Rep. Carol Alvarado (D-Houston) brought in the sonogram instrument (displayed above), pointing out that this device isn’t the external “wand and belly jelly” sonogram that most are familiar with.  Instead, the probe is inserted into the vagina.

Rep. Sid Miller (R-Stephenville), who authored the bill, says that women will be able to turn down the sonogram information.

"There is a carve out for any woman that wishes not to participate. She may choose not view the sonogram, she may choose not hear the heart beat, she may choose not to hear the description," said Miller.

But Alvarado argues that patients would feel trapped: “If she chooses not to see or hear, she is not in a position to just get up and walk away so it is not an option.”

Rep. Rafael Anchia (D-Dallas) proposed an amendment to expand the definition of life-threatening emergencies that would exempt a woman from viewing the sonogram.

The language of the bill presently says that women who have a life-threatening physical condition will be exempt from the sonogram. Anchia takes issue with the bill’s definition of a life-threatening physical condition as one “caused by or arising from a pregnancy itself that, as certified by a physician, places the woman in danger of death unless an abortion is performed.”

Rep. Miller argues that the language addresses this issue, and says he’s already checked with the experts. “The Texas Hospital Association expressed your very concern. It was their legal counsel that said this would fix the problem and asked us that we would simply make this change to alleviate the problem you just described."

But Miller and Anchia went back and forth. "It also doesn't get us there for a stage three cancer patient who is undergoing chemotherapy,” Anchia says. “This language does not get there because the life threatening situation is not caused by the pregnancy."

But Miller was unconvinced by Anchia’s proposal. “This amendment, in my opinion, opens it up to a lot of loopholes that I am not willing to do in the bill."

Ryland Barton contributed to reporting.

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