TALLAHASSEE — Mandatory ultrasound scans for all women seeking abortions moved one step closer to becoming law Wednesday when a House committee advanced the measure sought for years by anti-abortion advocates.
The bill (HB983) would require a physician or nurse to do an ultrasound exam — and show live images of the fetus to the pregnant woman — before performing an abortion.
Women can decline to view the images, but only if they sign a form acknowledging they rejected the opportunity.
The 5-2 vote in the House Health Care Regulations Committee was split down party lines, setting up an emotional, contentious debate over abortion policy.
Republican supporters said the ultrasound requirement ensures valuable information is presented to pregnant women. Democrats described it as anti-abortion meddling in decisions best left to women and their doctors.
Under current law, an ultrasound scan is required for abortion procedures in the second and third trimesters. The bill would extend that requirement to the first trimester, when 91 percent of abortions occurred in 2006.
Women with proof that they are pregnant due to rape, incest, domestic violence or human trafficking are exempt from the ultrasound requirement. The bill also requires physicians to present printed materials to women about the “various stages of development” of a fetus before performing an abortion.
Last year, a nearly identical ultrasound bill passed the House, but failed in the Senate on a 20-20 vote. To kill it, seven Republican senators defected and voted no. This year, the calculus might be different: Two of those Republican senators, Burt Saunders and Lisa Carton, are now gone due to term limits.
“We feel confident with our chances in the Senate,” said Rep. Anitere Flores, R-Miami, the House sponsor.