Indiana senators drop second ultrasound requirement for women taking abortion drug

Dems propose invasive procedure for men

INDIANAPOLIS - Indiana senators dropped language from an abortion bill that would have required women who have the procedure to return to their doctors two weeks afterward for a second ultrasound confirming that the pregnancy was terminated.

The Republican-dominated state Senate will still vote Tuesday on a bill that requires one ultrasound before abortions -- a controversial proposal that has drawn criticism from reproductive rights advocates who say it’s a step too far into doctor-patient relationships.

It requires doctors to schedule follow-up visits with their patients 14 days after the procedure, and would have required an ultrasound then to confirm that the pregnancy was terminated. But a senator argued that the second ultrasound requirement should be dropped so that doctors can use "any way that he or she was trained," including blood or urine tests.

"I think that physicians know a little bit more about that particular area than legislators," said Sen. Ron Alting, R-Lafayette, who is the author of Monday’s amendment to Senate Bill 371.

His change stripped out just one controversial pieces of a bill that has drawn the ire of MSNBC’s Rachel Maddow and others in recent days.

"The point is that lawmakers who have no background in health care shouldn’t be telling doctors how to practice medicine and shouldn’t be adding to a patient’s burden -- shouldn’t be adding to the cost of health care," said Betty Cockrum, the president of Planned Parenthood of Indiana.

If the bill passes in its current form, Indiana would become the ninth state to mandate that women seeking abortions first have ultrasounds, according to the Guttmacher Institute, a non-profit reproductive health research organization.

Louisiana and Texas require abortion providers to perform an ultrasound and then display and describe the image. Alabama, Arizona, Florida, Kansas, Mississippi and Virginia require ultrasounds and for women to be offered the opportunity to view the image.

Two more states -- North Carolina and Oklahoma -- have laws requiring ultrasounds, but courts have struck those laws down.

The bill also requires clinics that prescribe the RU-486 abortion pill but not the surgical procedure to still meet state standards for surgical clinics.

Another bill -- Senate Bill 489 -- would require that women considering abortions be given color photographs of fetuses at various stage of development. Current law requires that information be distributed, but not that it be in color.

Abortion rights advocates have criticized that measure, too.

"When you think about a fact that two-thirds of the women in Indiana who have an abortion have already given birth once, I’m pretty clear that they know a whole lot more than Sen. Young does about what they’re doing," Cockrum said.

She said factors such as "doorway width and hall width" have nothing to do with whether doctors should prescribe a set of pills that patients take by mouth.

"It’s a smokescreen, and what they would do if they pass this bill is very likely cause the medication abortions provided in Lafayette to shut down, and what that means is it reduces access for women here in Indiana," Cockrum said.

Democrats sought to amend the bill requiring ultrasounds to also require prostate exams for men seeking erectile dysfunction medication.

It was authored by Sen. Jean Breaux, D-Indianapolis, who said she is upset by the ultrasound requirement because in many cases -- especially when women in the early stages of pregnancy seek abortion-inducing drugs -- it’s too early for an abdominal ultrasound, so doctors would have to perform more invasive transvaginal ultrasounds, which require probes to be inserted into women’s vaginas.

"At first glance, my amendment might look like a tongue-in-cheek amendment," Breaux said. "But it really seeks to make a point about what it is we’re doing here."

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