Somewhat surprisingly, there haven't been too many egregious attempts to assault reproductive choice this session; that may be partly because there's only so much farther the Lege can go short of an outright ban, and it may be partly because of the effort put into the "Choose Life" license plates, which was the big rallying point. One of the substantive efforts to meddle in women's health issues was Sen. Dan Patrick's ultrasound bill, which thanks to the larger Democratic caucus he was forced to amend.
Women seeking an abortion would be offered -- but not required to have -- an ultrasound under a scaled-back measure the Texas Senate tentatively approved Thursday.
The original bill by Sen. Dan Patrick, R-Houston, would have mandated the ultrasound. Patrick presented an amendment Thursday to his own bill, changing the proposal to say that the woman has to be offered the ultrasound but could say no.
He said the change helped move the measure more quickly through the Senate.
"I didn't see it weakening our bill. ... I saw it as maybe bringing more people to support it, and I think it did," Patrick said.
In many cases, women seeking abortions are already offered ultrasounds. For example, Dr. Scott Spear, medical director for Planned Parenthood in Austin, has said that all women who have an abortion there get an ultrasound and are offered the chance to see the image.
The original proposal -- touted by Gov. Rick Perry and Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst -- would have required doctors to perform the ultrasound, make the fetal heartbeat audible and talk to the woman about the picture and the sound. The women would not have been required to look at the image.
"My goal has always been to be sure that a woman going in for an abortion has all the information that she needs to make the right decision, and I think this bill accomplishes that," Patrick said of the new version.
But Sen. Wendy Davis, D-Fort Worth, told Patrick during the debate on the Senate floor, "I believe it's about shaming a woman."
UPDATE: A statement from Sen. Leticia Van de Putte about the contraception bill Sen. Patrick should have supported if he were remotely sincere about his "concern" for women is beneath the fold.
Today, the Texas Senate considered SB 592 authored by Senator Leticia Van de Putte (D-San Antonio),which allows 16 and 17 year olds who have already have one child to have access to family planning counseling and services.Posted by Charles Kuffner on May 02, 2009 to That's our Lege
Texas has the highest percentage of repeat teen births (24%) in the nation. A teen mom in Texas has a one in four chance of getting pregnant a second time before she turns 18. A sexually active teen who does not use contraceptives has a 90% chance of becoming pregnant within in a year. For teen mothers this is especially dangerous because closely spaced pregnancies result in a higher percentage of low birth weight babies that lead to higher risks of complications to the babies' long-term health and greater costs for the state of Texas.
"This legislation is about common sense. Why do we trust teen mothers to consent for the medical care of their infants but we don't let them utilize family planning services? Making it harder to get birth control does nothing to reduce sexual activity-- it only increases unplanned pregnancies.
"I am disappointed that I was unsuccessful in securing final passage of SB 592. It was an extremely close vote and I look forward to working to convince my Senate colleagues that this bill is a step towards reducing the number of repeat teen pregnancies in Texas.
"My grandmother always said, "if at first you don't succeed, try again." The teen pregnancy crisis in Texas is too important not to continue this fight.
"Let's put "common sense" back into the equation," said Senator Van de Putte.