Utah House votes to require ultrasounds before abortions

(Rebecca Santana | AP file photo) The ultrasound of a woman who went to the Hope Medical Group for Women on Feb. 20, 2020, in Shreveport, La. The clinic is one of three in the state that provides abortions to women, and it is challenging a state law that requires doctors who perform abortions to have admitting privileges at a nearby hospital. The Supreme Court is hearing the case on March 4. The Utah Legislature has advanced a similar bill.

A bill requiring women to undergo an ultrasound and hear the sound of their fetus’ heartbeat prior to an abortion earned the approval of the Utah House on Thursday.

The bill’s sponsor, West Jordan Republican Rep. Stephen Christiansen, said the bill is meant to provide would-be mothers with the best medical information possible while they decide whether to terminate a pregnancy. He suggested it is common for women to be told their developing fetus is little more than “a clump of cells,” despite having discernible hands, feet and other human characteristics.

“Even if we disregard the numbers, think logically,” Christiansen said. “When a woman sees live video of the baby that’s within her womb and hears a heartbeat, if it’s possible and medically safe, logic would say that many women are going to choose life.”

HB364 is based on a similar law in Kentucky, which the U.S. Supreme Court recently declined to review. The proposal was passed in the Utah House on a vote of 47-20, with five Republicans joining the chamber’s Democratic representatives in opposing the legislation.

Draper Democratic Rep. Suzanne Harrison, a physician anesthesiologist, said the tenor of the bill was “patronizing and insulting” to health care providers, who would face fines of up to $100,000 for failing to comply with the law, and up to $250,000 after repeat offenses.

“This bill would create yet another unnecessary government mandate that would force doctors to perform 100 percent medically unnecessary tests on a patient,” she said.

But Christiansen responded that if the additional ultrasounds result in the birth of a child who would otherwise be aborted, then the procedure is not unnecessary.

“I do believe this procedure, this bill, the language in this bill, stands a very good chance of saving some unborn babies lives,” he said.

The bill specifically says it does “not prevent a pregnant woman from averting her eyes” or requesting the heartbeat volume be turned down.

HB364 will now move to the Senate for its consideration. Lawmakers are considering a number of abortion-related bills this year, including a requirement that fetal remains after an abortion be either buried or cremated and a ban on all elective abortions in the event that Supreme Court precedent is overturned to allow such a prohibition.