Proposed abortion legislation in Alabama is undergoing a rewrite after state Sen. Linda Coleman critcized the measure as state-sanctioned rape.
The bill, called the Right to Know and See Act, was introduced earlier this month by Sen. Clay Scofield. Its main purpose is to mandate that all women getting an abortion -- except in cases of medical emergencies, miscarriages and ectopic pregnancies -- must first be shown an ultrasound image of the fetus.
Scofield's synopsis reads: This bill would require a physician to perform an ultrasound, provide verbal explanation of the ultrasound, and display the images to the pregnant woman before performing an abortion.
Coleman took issue with some language on the fourth page of the measure, which would require abortion providers to perform an obstetric ultrasound on the pregnant woman, using either a vaginal transducer or an abdominal transducer, whichever would display the embryo or fetus more clearly.
The vaginal transducer is a more invasive instrument than its abdominal counterpart, and the bill's language implies that the physician, not the patient, would decide which instrument to use. Coleman was outraged. You can't tell me forcing a probe into a woman's vagina against her consent is anything but rape, she said to RH Reality Check on Monday. You can put icing on it, dress it up, but this is the forced penetration of a woman's vagina without her consent.
Many Alabamians agreed with Coleman, and they quickly made their voices heard. Scofield's office fielded hundreds of calls, and he shut down a Facebook fan page after angry visitors filled it with criticism. Scofield said that some of those comments were threatening, and that his home address and phone number had been posted online.
Now, he's going back in for a rewrite. The two main criticisms of this legislation focus on whether an invasive ultrasound method will be forced on a woman, and the assertion by some that this law will be applicable in the case of a miscarriage, he said in a statement released on Monday.
He contends that neither of those accusations reflects his initial intentions. It was my intent that the method of ultrasound would be a choice...Further, this bill was never intended to include cases of a miscarriage or other preterm delivery. Scofield also insisted that no woman will be forced to actually look at the ultrasound; patients will be free to avert their eyes.
He intends to correct the bill by clarifying the exceptions and offering patient choice regarding ultrasound.
Despite these promised changes, the bill will remain largely the same. It still mandates that women seeking abortions must undergo the ultrasound procedure, and that physicians who fail to provide the ultrasound could face up to $15,000 in fines and 10 years in jail.
Neither Coleman nor Scofield responded immediately to requests for comment on the bill's revision. Senate debates on the bill had been potentially slated for as early as Tuesday, but Scofield's rewrite and surrounding controversy will likely delay a decision.