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Myths and facts about HB 1143

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Myth: The bill forces a woman to view her ultrasound before undergoing an abortion.

Fact: A woman can simply decline to view the ultrasound by checking off and signing a form.

Section 390.0111 of the bill, line 512 states: The woman has a right to decline to view the ultrasound images after she is informed of her right and offered an opportunity to view them. If the woman declines to view the ultrasound images, the woman shall complete a form, as determined by department rule, acknowledging that she was offered an opportunity to view her ultrasound but that she rejected that opportunity.

The bill exempts cases of rape, incest, or situations where the life of the mother is  in jeopardy due to the pregnancy. In those cases, the provider will not even offer the opportunity to view the images or explain them. If the women does not wish to go through the hardship of documenting the rape or incest, she can simply check off the form declining to view the ultrasound.

Myth: Although the woman can opt out of viewing the images, she still will be required to  hear an oral description of her ultrasound.

Fact: Informed consent in Florida already requires that a woman be informed of the gestational age of the fetus. The bill requires the provider to verify the age with an ultrasound. The gestational age is the only ultrasound information the woman is required to hear. Other than the gestational age, the woman can decline to hear an explanation of the ultrasound.

Myth: The bill requires a doctor to give the woman seeking an abortion a “lecture.”

Fact: The bill gives a woman the opportunity to view her ultrasound and be fully informed of the medical procedure she is about to undergo. If the woman does not wish to view her ultrasound, or hear the explanation, she can decline and the doctor would not be required to show her the ultrasound, nor explain it to her. The doctor is still required to inform the woman of the gestational age of the fetus, verified by the ultrasound.

A scientific medical description of the ultrasound images could not be considered a “lecture.”

This information provides the woman with vital information about the gestational age of the fetus so that she can make a fully informed choice.

Myth: This bill requires a woman seeking an abortion to pay an additional cost for an ultrasound.

Fact: According to a Senate Staff Analysis, at least 82% of the licensed abortion providers in the state already require a woman seeking an abortion in the first trimester to have an ultrasound. In the overwhelming majority of abortion procedures, an ultrasound is already required and already part of the cost. An ultrasound prior to an abortion is a medically necessary and safety precaution for the patient. An ultrasound is routinely used by abortion providers to: confirm the pregnancy, determine the gestational age of the fetus, and determine if any unusual circumstances exist such as a tubal pregnancy.

There are 62 licensed abortion facilities in the state. In 2008, Senate Staff called each of these facilities and found the following:

51 already require an ultrasound as part of the first trimester abortion procedure.

6 did not require it; but 5 of these 6 have ultrasound equipment on site and perform ultrasounds for women seeking abortions after the first trimester as required by current law.

5 did not respond.

Again, a woman has the right to decline the opportunity to view her ultrasound.

Myth: This bill is “mean-spirited” and adds additional stress to a woman seeking an abortion.

Fact: This bill informs a woman of her opportunity to view her ultrasound. If she chooses not to, she simply signs a form. There is nothing mean-spirited about providing a woman information regarding her health care.

In any other medical procedure, we would expect that a patient would be provided the opportunity to view an x-ray before making a decision regarding their health care. Women should not be denied similar opportunities and information prior to providing consent.

Myth: This bill hurts poor women–requiring them to pay additional costs.

Fact: Florida has never allowed public funds to be used to pay for elective abortions, except under very limited circumstances, under the Hyde Amendment. The Hyde Amendment, which passed the United States Congress in 1976, barred the use of federal funding for abortion except in cases of rape, incest, or risk of death. A poor woman that wishes to undergo an abortion under current law already must pay for this procedure on her own, and, in at least 82% of cases in Florida, the ultrasound will already be included.

All women in Florida should be guaranteed a medically necessary safety precaution and the ability to make a fully informed decision.

Peter Schorsch is the President of Extensive Enterprises and is the publisher of some of Florida’s most influential new media websites, including SaintPetersBlog.com, FloridaPolitics.com, ContextFlorida.com, and Sunburn, the morning read of what’s hot in Florida politics. SaintPetersBlog has for three years running been ranked by the Washington Post as the best state-based blog in Florida. In addition to his publishing efforts, Peter is a political consultant to several of the state’s largest governmental affairs and public relations firms. Peter lives in St. Petersburg with his wife, Michelle, and their daughter, Ella.

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