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Is There a Cost to the Abortion Sonogram Bill?

Lawmakers debate the abortion sonogram bill.
Photo by KUT
Lawmakers debate the abortion sonogram bill.

Last night the Texas House gave initial approval to the abortion sonogram bill by a 103-42 vote. House Bill 15requires a woman seeking an abortion to receive a sonogram within 24-hours before the procedure. The bill would also require to show the image of the fetus while explaining to the patient what's on the screen and playing the audio of the heartbeat.  

Rep. Sid Miller(R-Stephenville), who wrote the bill, said it will cost the state nothing because the mandated sonograms are already being performed.  Medical groups say it's standard medical practice to perform a sonogram before termination.  And most abortion clinics perform a sonogram before the procedure. These are offered at no cost at some clinics.

Dr. Eugene Toy, President of the Texas Association of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, says it costs roughly $80 to $150 for a sonogram.  Another women’s health clinic in Austin charges about $255 for an early ultrasound for women who are less 14 weeks pregnant.

Dr. Toy said he doesn’t believe there will be significant additional to the procedure expense because of the bill but says there are other costs.  

“Because the bill does have very stringent specifications about what is said, what is documented, and the patient doesn’t really have a choice, inevitably that will slow things down and make it less efficient for the physician and that will disrupt things and that in the end does translate to money,”  said Toy.

The bill also would require theDepartment of State Health Services to compile and distribute a list of clinics that offer free obstetric sonogram services to women.  “I don’t know how they can print and distribute all these materials and there’s no cost,” said Rep. Carol Alvarado (D-Houston).

An amendment was proposed to HB 15 Thursday that would nullify the legislation if the bill actually cost the state money to implement.

 “The questions that were posed by Representative Turner were, ‘If you’re stating that there is no cost to the state why do you have a problem accepting an amendment that states that if there is a cost, then this bill cannot take effect,” Rep. Dawnna Dukestold KUT.

One cost of the bill is clear: doctors who don’t follow the rules  can be fined $10,000 for the first violation and up to $100,000 for the third violation.  A doctor can lose  his or her license after three violations.

The Texas Senate has already passed a sonogram bill.  The Texas House will take a final vote next week.  The two versions will then go to a House/Senate conference committee to reconcile the differences.