Deep into the State of the State address, Gov. Rick Perry endorsed a proposal by Sen. Dan Patrick and Rep. Frank Corte to, in Perry's words, "require those wanting to terminate a pregnancy to review their ultrasound before proceeding." Perry told the assembled lawmakers today that "as we consider the growing threats to our nation's unborn, I believe it is time to add another layer of protection for the most vulnerable Texans."
It was a short statement, made after the governor touted a lot of rosy statistics about the state of the Texas economy, (but curiously, did not share the Lone Star State's dubious distinction as Number One in teen births and Number one in spending federal abstinence-only sex education dollars.)
But Perry's choice of words was interesting in lieu of last session's debate on the Senate floor over SB 920, Patrick's ultrasound bill, which passed the Senate and died in the House. During that debate, Patrick insisted that conducting an ultrasound before an abortion was "sound medical practice" and imperative to preserve the health of the mother. After he was accused of attempting to "shame" or "harass" women seeking abortions, Patrick said he never intended that they be required to review their ultrasounds. He then accepted an amendment that required doctors to inform their patients that viewing the image was optional.
I called Mark Miner, the gov's press secretary to find out why Perry thought this was a good idea. "The governor believes it is important that people understand the significance of the decision they are about to make."
Clearly, ultrasound advocates believe that many women will choose not to have an abortion if they view their ultrasound. I would agree that viewing an ultrasound of an 11-week-old fetus may indeed change a woman's mind about the procedure. Here's my problem: Isn't this a bit like closing the barn door while the cows are out wandering down the road?
If Perry, Patrick and Corte really want to educate Texans about abortion, I suggest they endorse comprehensive sex education for all Texas high schoolers —including how to avoid pregnancy (there's this thing called The Pill). And part of that education could be showing a real ultrasound taken at six weeks, then twelve weeks, then 20. There's a particular advantage to my plan: teen-aged boys, not just their girlfriends, will learn something too.
It's a perfect idea. Very educational. And better timing.
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