House Hearing on Sonogram Bill Gets Graphic

After Colorful Testimony, Sonogram Bill Passes House State Affairs Committee
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The House State Affairs Committee got an earful of graphic testimony Wednesday afternoon about the strict House versions of the sonogram bill.

House Bill 201, which was left pending in committee, by state Rep. Geanie Morrison, R-Victoria, requires that physicians provide women with a sonogram and a verbal description of the image as well as the opportunity to hear the fetal heartbeat 24 hours prior to an abortion. Morrison’s bill allows the patient to “avert” her eyes should she not want to view the image. House Bill 15, which was voted out of committee 9-3, by state Rep. Sid Miller, R-Stephenville, takes things a step further, declaring that a provider who violates the legislation would lose his or her medical license. Unlike the Senate version that passed last week, neither House version includes an exception for women who are victims of rape, incest or who know of a fetal abnormality.

Aside from the expected remarks from supporters that these bills amplify informed consent, today’s testimony sounded very different from what was heard in the Senate State Affairs committee a few weeks ago. A gaggle of dramatic witnesses came armed with colorful analogies and graphic personal stories.

“They say a baby cannot feel pain,” said Carrie Holland, an abortion opponent. “I can tell you from personal experience that that’s not true.” Holland added that she has nightmares about a fetus being aborted in a womb and that she had an opportunity to physically hold her sister’s miscarried fetus. “They say that a baby is just a blob of tissue, but I can testify to you that it is perfectly formed.”

Holland and Juda Myers, founder of Choices 4 Life, said neither bill should include exceptions for women who are victims of rape or incest. Myers said no woman should be given an exemption from seeing a sonogram and every child deserves life no matter how it was conceived. “I hold before you two sonogram pictures—can anyone tell me which one is the rape child?” Myers asked the committee. “I’m very much for the sonogram bill, 110 percent, with one exception, that there are no exceptions.”

Myers couldn’t leave the microphone without comparing the sanctity of a fetus to the sanctity of an “eagle egg,” but perhaps the best analogy came later. Becky Turner, who represented herself at the hearing in support of the bill, likened informed consent to placing nutrition facts and ingredient information on the outside of a tuna can. “I’m grateful that (the government) thought it was important to tell me what’s inside of this can because I can’t see inside,” she said. “I would hope that you guys would also consider it important enough to tell others what’s inside the womb because we can’t see it….I would hope that the value of that child would hold as much value as a dead fish in a can.”

Other witnesses in support of the bills included representatives from the Texas Eagle Forum, and directors of several crisis pregnancy centers and right-to-life organizations. Missing from today’s testimony was Planned Parenthood, who was the loud dissenting voice at the Senate committee hearing a few weeks ago (to its credit, Planned Parenthood did hold a press conference Wednesday morning opposing the bill). Still, a few tried to fight the bills in person. Dismissing the tuna can comparison, Don Haslam, a lawyer from Paris, Texas, was one of three witnesses who felt the legislation infringed on a woman’s right to choose. “This is not so easily reduced to something yanked off a grocery shelf, and it’s being pitched as something altruistic,” he said. “But in reality this appears to be something that flies in the face a woman’s right to choose not to be preached at.”

Miller’s bill, which provides an exception that the sonogram doesn’t have to be performed in a medical emergency, will soon be up for consideration in the full House.