Michigan Republicans have introduced a bill requiring all women to undergo a transvaginal ultrasound before obtaining an abortion, a move that rekindles last year’s firestorm when other GOP-led states were considering similar measures.
The legislation introduced Tuesday in the state House ensures the “performance of a diagnostic ultrasound examination of the fetus at least two hours before an abortion is performed” and requires her to sign a consent form prior to the abortion. The bill was introduced by state Rep. Joel Johnson (R) and cosponsored by 22 fellow lawmakers.
Johnson was not available for comment Wednesday, but his legislative aide, Ben Frederick, confirmed to TPM that, while the legislation does not specifically mention transvaginal ultrasounds, the bill aims to require women to undergo an ultrasound prior to receiving an abortion.
Katie Carey, a spokeswoman for Michigan’s House Democratic Leader Tim Greimel, categorically said the bill would mandate transvaginal ultrasounds for women before an abortion.
“This is an unnecessary and unwarranted intrusion into the health decisions of women,” Greimel told TPM in a statement. “This is yet another example of the Republican obsession with overregulating people’s private lives.”
The bill requires the use of ultrasound equipment “providing the most visibly clear image of the gross anatomical development of the fetus and the most audible fetal heartbeat.” As a practical matter, that requires transvaginal ultrasounds, said Donna Crane, the policy director of NARAL Pro-Choice America.
“It does lay bare that the real motive is to make abortion providers continue to acquire more and more and more equipment before they’re even eligible to perform an abortion,” Crane told TPM. “They’re trying to make it harder for doctors to do their jobs.”
While the ultrasound is currently optional in Michigan, the proposed legislation would make it mandatory. After the ultrasound is conducted, women would have the option to obtain more information if they want it, Frederick said. Women would also have the option of declining to see the ultrasound images.
“This actually modernizes some of the provisions that we’ve had in statutes for years now,” Frederick said. “We’ve had an ultrasound viewing option since 2006, signed into law by Gov. [Jennifer] Granholm with support from both parties. The ultrasounds already happen as a matter of routine and diagnostic necessity. And this would simply add additional options for the patients — they could view or decline to view the images.”
If the bill passes the Republican-controlled legislature and is signed by Gov. Rick Snyder (R), it would provide the woman “the option to view the active ultrasound image of the fetus, hear the fetal heartbeat, receive a physical picture of the ultrasound image of the fetus, and hear an explanation of the ultrasound image of the fetus” by her physician.
Frederick said his boss has reached out to Snyder and is “optimistic” that the bill will move forward with support from members of both parties. Snyder’s office did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
The purpose, according to the text of the legislation, is to provide “consumer protection” to women and “ensure fully informed consent to the abortion.”
“The performance of a diagnostic ultrasound examination of the fetus further protects the interests of the woman seeking an abortion,” reads the bill, “by assessing the viability of the fetus and confirming the approximate gestational age of the fetus, as this information is necessary in order to determine appropriate medical care for the woman seeking an abortion.”
Similar measures were introduced last year in Virginia and Alabama, but Republicans backed off after ferocious pushback from women’s advocates and reproductive rights groups, which described it as overly invasive and likened it to rape.
Crane said NARAL and its allies are prepared to fight to sink the legislation.
“Women should be up in arms over these types of laws,” she said. “Unfortunately they’re not new. But the fact that politicians just went through an election cycle and got spanked over how they treat women and reproductive freedoms and still introduce bills like this really boggles the mind. It’s not clear that the sponsors haven’t been living under rocks since November.”
Sahil Kapur is a congressional reporter for TPM. He previously covered politics and public policy for numerous publications including The Guardian and The Huffington Post. He can be reached at sahil [at] talkingpointsmemo.com.