A proponent of a bill that would force women to undergo ultrasounds prior to having an abortion aims to sway lawmakers to back the measure with a peek inside of the womb.
Idaho anti-abortion crusader Brandi Swindell promised lawmakers an ultrasound demonstration at last week’s Senate Affairs Committee hearing. She plans to keep her vow with a demonstration of the procedure at the Statehouse today.
Swindell testified that she didn’t know if she would demonstrate an abdominal or transvaginal ultrasound but at least one lawmaker urged that her media stunt comply with the law.
“This is going to be AWESOME!” Swindell wrote on her Facebook page announcing the event. “Stanton Healthcare is going to perform ‘first in the nation’ (sic) live ultrasounds before pending legislation in Boise, Idaho.”
Republican Sen. Chuck Winder and pro-life advocates Idaho Right to Life drafted the bill in an effort to enhance informed consent laws that provide information about abortion risks and gestation to pregnant women. They say the ultimate aim of the legislation is to reduce the number of abortions.
“Stanton, as part of our National Campaign ‘Voices from the Womb,’ plan to perform ultrasounds on pregnant women this Wednesday at the State Capitol! This is by invitation only, for legislators and members of the media. ‘Knowledge is Power.’ Join the Stanton Revolution!” Swindell wrote on her Facebook wall.
But the organization's "invitation only" plans were dashed when they were informed that if they chose to hold their event in a Statehouse meeting room, it would have to be open to the public.
Opponents of the ultrasound measure say the call the media stunt “political theater” that has nothing to do with women’s health and everything to do with scoring political points.
“Forcing doctors to use ultrasounds for political, and not medical, reasons is the very definition of government intrusion. Women who seek to terminate a pregnancy do so prior to 12 weeks gestation 90 percent of the time. An abdominal ultrasound would not provide the detail or the heart beat sounds required by law,” said Hannah Brass, legislative director for Planned Parenthood Votes Northwest.
Opponents said the law would require some women to have an invasive, transvaginal ultrasound.
“This should be a wake-up call to women and men in Idaho that the real purpose of this bill is to put politicians between women and their doctors, making government intrusion into personal health care decisions the new norm,” Brass said.
Planned Parenthood, the American Civil Liberties Union and a coalition of women right’s advocates have stepped up in opposition to the legislation, voicing concerns that the law would create new barriers to accessing abortion and further traumatize women facing crisis pregnancies. They say the measure would mandate an unnecessary medical procedure and infringe upon women’s constitutional rights and privacy. Opponents testified the bill could also force women into having two ultrasounds.
The measure does not exempt victims of rape or incest or pregnancies with fetal abnormalities.
“This is a political stunt using women’s health as theater and women’s bodies as a stage. Politicians in Boise have no business playing politics with women's health in this way,” Brass said.
Swindell, who founded the anti-abortion pregnancy crisis center, Stanton Healthcare, asked lawmakers and a smattering of hand-picked journalists to join the invite-only event.