Bill requiring ultrasound offer before abortion unlikely to pass Delaware committee

A closeup of Delaware's General Assembly seal

Delaware's General Assembly seal.

State Sen. Bryant Richardson’s second attempt this year to require doctors to offer an ultrasound or fetal heartbeat monitor to patients seeking an abortion appears to be on its way to a similar fate as his first attempt.

In March, he struck the first bill that would have implemented the ultrasound requirement after it was introduced in January. He introduced a replacement bill in April that would create civil and criminal penalties for doctors who fail to make the required offer of an ultrasound prior to terminating a pregnancy.

“A lot of women will decide to keep the child if they see the development of that child on an ultrasound screen,” Richardson said.

The only other Republican on the committee, Sen. Brian Pettyjohn, agreed.

“I think informed consent is something that’s very powerful and empowering to whoever is getting whatever procedure you’re talking about … that they go into a procedure with the full knowledge of what’s happening and with all options on the table,” Pettyjohn said.

The Senate Sunset Committee held a public hearing on the bill Wednesday. Richardson spent much of the hearing complaining about both the committee assignment and the timing of the hearing.

“This bill should have been held in the health committee, not the Sunset Committee. I think that is just another slap in the face of the people who are concerned about this issue,” he said. He suggested Sen. Kyle Evans Gay, who chairs the committee, table the bill until a later date.

Sen. Gay refused that request, pointing out that the public was given proper notice of the hearing and, regardless of his opinion on the committee assignment, his bill would be treated fairly.

“I will not continue to have the process manipulated in a way that just prolongs a hearing. This bill is ready for a hearing,” she said. “If you are not ready, that is unfortunately not something I can fix.”

Nearly everyone who spoke in the public hearing opposed the bill, including Planned Parenthood of Delaware’s Cheri Boyer. “The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists has deemed that an ultrasound prior to an abortion is medically unnecessary. This procedure serves only to create undue burden for women attempting to access safe legal abortion care,” she said. “They are yet another example of attempts to shame women who seek an abortion by adding and testing that has nothing to do with the procedure to terminate a pregnancy.

The procedure for moving legislation forward out of committee to the full Senate is a bit complicated. To move ahead requires the bill to be signed by a majority of the five-member committee.

Based on their comments during the hearing, it seems unlikely the three Democratic members of the committee would sign off.

Because there’s no deadline for Senators to decide whether or not to sign a bill, Richardson’s measure remains in limbo.

A similar bill was introduced by Republican state Rep. Rich Collins in the House in December. It has not yet had a hearing scheduled after being assigned to the Health & Human Development Committee.

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