KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- A national pro-life group is pushing legislation in states aimed at making sure pregnant women and girls view sonograms before having abortions, hoping that what they see will persuade them against having the procedure.
Such proposals have gained little attention so far from lawmakers in Kansas or Missouri. But the National Right to Life Committee says 11 states have enacted laws requiring abortion providers to tell patients they have the right to see an ultrasound image of the embryo or fetus they're carrying.
Right to Life had its annual, three-day convention in Kansas City last week, attracting more than 1,000 leaders of local and state pro-life groups from across the nation. Mary Balch, director of the group's state legislative efforts, predicted that ultrasound legislation will be a growing trend.
"We believe the more information a woman has about the development of a child, the more likely she is to choose life," Balch said during an interview.
Critics see such legislation as an attempt by pro-life activists to have the state interfere in decisions between patients and doctors.
"It's her pregnancy. It's her decision. It's part of her health care. A decision to have an abortion is very personal, very private, very close to the heart," said Julie Burkhart, lobbyist for the Kansas abortion rights group ProKanDo.
This year, the Kansas House's Federal and State Affairs Committee sponsored a bill requiring abortion providers to give patients the option of having a sonogram and, if the patients can't afford it, have the state pick up the cost. The measure was assigned to a second committee, where it didn't have a hearing, but it remains alive for the 2008 session.
In Missouri, a proposal from Rep. Jane Cunningham, R-Chesterfield, went even further. It would have required the abortion provider to show the sonogram to the patient before the procedure. However, her bill died without a hearing.
Balch and other Right to Life leaders said abortion opponents are interested in such legislation because they believe patients do not receive enough information about abortion procedures.
"We want this kind of information before we make this permanent, life-or-death decision," said Olivia Gans, who had an abortion in the early 1980s and now directs Right to Life's American Victims of Abortion project. "It can only be beneficial."
But Burkhart said abortion providers routinely use ultrasound equipment and already show images to patients who ask to see them.
She called the ultrasound bills "just another way in which to control women."
"It's another way in which the right wing really works to mislead the public in making them believe that somehow abortion providers are substandard health care providers, and that is not true," she said.
Kansas bill is HB 2454. Missouri measure was HB 1225.
On the Net:
Right to Life Committee: http://www.nrlc.org
Kansas Legislature: http://www.kslegislature.org
Missouri General Assembly: http://www.moga.mo.gov/