Tribpedia: Abortion Sonogram Bill

The abortion sonogram legislation that passed the Texas House and Senate requires a doctor to perform a sonogram on a woman at least 24 hours before she has an abortion. During the sonogram, the doctor must describe the fetus or embryo; the woman can choose whether she wants to see images from the sonogram or listen to the heartbeat. Victims of sexual assault or incest are allowed to opt out of even hearing the description, regardless of whether they've filed a police report. The bill also includes an exception for medical emergencies.

After passing the Legislature during the 2011 session, the new law was immediately held up in court, after opponents challenged its constitutionality. In January 2012, a federal appeals court said Texas must enforce the law while it is being challenged in court. 

The Senate originally approved a version that would allow all women a two-hour waiting period, but disagreement with the House led to a compromise: Women who live more than 100 miles from the nearest abortion provider can receive a sonogram two hours in advance of an abortion. 

State Sen. Dan Patrick, R-Houston, who filed the original bill, is adamantly anti-abortion and says he hopes the procedure will encourage some women to change their minds. Other supporters, like state Sen. Judith Zaffirini, D-Laredo, say the bill ensures a woman is giving informed consent to the procedure.

But those who oppose the bill say it is an example of government overreach: It intervenes in the patient-doctor relationship, and it is hypocritical for those who espouse limited government to support it. Some, like state Sen. John Whitmire, D-Houston, argue the procedure makes a difficult decision more painful — potentially scarring — and impedes a woman’s right to choose.