BOISE • How many ultrasounds does it take to convince a woman not to go through with an abortion?

Boise Republican Sen. Chuck Winder hopes it takes just one. That’s the intent of a bill he’s sponsored to require physicians to give women an ultrasound before carrying out an abortion.

But while a section of the legislation would compile a list of facilities offering free ultrasounds, the procedures offered at such facilities may not comply with the law, requiring a woman to receive — and pay for — another ultrasound from the abortion provider.

The legislation, as written, states that a physician or an employee of the abortion provider must give the patient an ultrasound and record the fetal heartbeat. The woman and doctor must sign a form acknowledging the ultrasound took place.

And this is where the list of free ultrasounds falls short: most providers are pregnancy crisis centers aimed at convincing pregnant women not to go through with abortions — not facilities that actually perform abortions.

“This is saying the physician who performs the abortion or their agent” must perform the ultrasound, not a third-party crisis center, said Hannah Brass, legislative director for Planned Parenthood Votes Northwest. She also pointed out that while free clinics provide ultrasounds, the procedures may not be diagnostic ultrasounds capable of providing information like the presence of a fetal heartbeat.

“Would a place that’s listed as free have to be capable of giving this sort of information?” Brass asked.

Winder acknowledged that the free ultrasounds might not count, and said he hoped to hear more about it during Wednesday’s public hearing in the Senate State Affairs Committee.

But would such testimony convince him to alter the bill’s language?

“I don’t know that I would or not,” Winder said. The ultimate goal of the bill, he said, is to convince a woman not to go through with abortions.

“I believe that life begins at conception,” he said, adding he wants to give a voice to the unborn.

Besides, he said, “the cost of abortion can be fairly significant if it’s a non-chemical abortion.” The price of an ultrasound didn’t factor into the discussion, he said.

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Brass said at Planned Parenthood, transvaginal and abdominal ultrasounds cost about $186 — a significant additional cost for a procedure that isn’t necessary in all cases. While physicians perform ultrasounds on many women seeking an abortion, that’s a decision that should be left between the woman and her doctor, she said.

Jason Herring of Right To Life Idaho said that even if a woman goes to a free ultrasound clinic, abortion providers would want to do their own ultrasounds for liability reasons.

“He’s not going to care that she got an ultrasound at some pregnancy crisis center somewhere,” Herring said. Information given during an ultrasound at a pregnancy crisis center is different than at an abortion provider, he added.

Even if language to allow third-party ultrasounds to meet its requirements is fixed, Brass would still oppose the bill.

“When we’re talking about a bill like this, it’s state mandated, not based on the individual patient and their medical needs,” she said.


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