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Abortion Sonogram Bill Moves to Governor's Desk

Photo by Erik Reyna for KUT News

House lawmakers have sent the controversial abortion sonogram bill to the governor's desk — after a last-ditch effort by disability rights advocates to change language they called highly offensive.

The bill, which requires women seeking abortions to get a sonogram at least 24 hours ahead of time and to listen to a description of the fetus, includes an exception for women who have been the victims of rape or incest or who know the fetus has an irreversible medical condition or abnormality. On Wednesday, the Down Syndrome Association of Central Texas and other disability rights advocates argued the measure, as currently written, "targets fetuses suspected of having a disability for easier abortion."  

"That means if spina bifida or Down syndrome or cerebral palsy are diagnosed prenatally, then they would be lumped in with pregnancies resulting from rape or incest," Suzanne Shepherd, the Down Syndrome Association's Healthcare Committee co-chair, wrote in a letter. "If any unborn life needs protections of Texas law before an abortion can proceed, then the life of a child with Down syndrome deserves no less than those same protections."

State Rep. Craig Eiland, D-Galveston, unsuccessfully tried to have the bill, which returned to the House from the Senate this week, sent to conference committee for language tweaks instead of to the governor.s

"This is a sensitive subject," said state Rep. Sid Miller, R-Stephenville, the bill's author, before moving to table Eiland's motion. He said that more than likely, a woman choosing not to have a sonogram for reasons of fetal abnormality has already had such procedures — and shoudldn't be subjected to more.

Emily Ramshaw investigates state agencies and covers social services for KUT's political reporting partner, the Texas Tribune. Previously, she spent six years reporting for The Dallas Morning News, first in Dallas, then in Austin. In April 2009 she was named Star Reporter of the Year by the Texas Associated Press Managing Editors and the Headliners Foundation of Texas. Originally from the Washington, D.C. area, she received a bachelor's degree from the Medill School of Journalism at Northwestern University.
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