CHEYENNE — A Wyoming legislative panel on Friday recommended moving forward a bill that would require doctors to inform women seeking an abortion that they may view an ultrasound image of their fetus before the procedure.
The House Education Committee voted 7-2 on the measure from state Rep. Bob Brechtel, R-Casper, who also sponsored a similar bill that was defeated in the House last week. It now goes to the state House of Representatives for debate.
Brechtel said he modified his new bill to take out a requirement in the earlier version that would have required doctors to inform women that fetuses past a certain age could feel pain.
Many opponents of the new bill bristled at Brechtel's reintroduction of the divisive issue.
In his opening remarks to the committee, Brechtel said some House members who voted against his first bill now say opponents misinformed them about its purpose and intent.
Brechtel said he has talked to women who have suffered for years after their decision to have an abortion.
"At least 80 percent of the time, an abortion-minded mother chooses life for her unborn after seeing an ultrasound," Brechtel said. "A short time-out to consider consequences of any intrusive procedure is always wise, especially in these circumstances when a mother is scared and pressured by a significant other."
Rep. Cathy Connolly, a Laramie Democrat who voted against Brechtel's earlier bill, asked if he truly believed members of the House were misinformed when they voted it down.
"That is not my sense at all," Connolly told him, adding that House members were eloquent, knowledgeable and compassionate in the debate before voting down the earlier bill.
Committee Chairman Rep. Matt Teeters, R-Lingle, replied that all representatives are duly elected and have the right to bring up issues they believe are important. Teeters had voted in favor of Brechtel's bill last week.
Dr. Rene Hinkle, a Cheyenne obstetrician, spoke against Brechtel's new bill on behalf of the Wyoming Medical Society. She said doctors routinely perform ultrasound procedures on pregnant women and that doctors are required to inform their patients about all medical procedures beforehand.
"Having people say that physicians are doing this without some kind of informed consent means that they are not following medical standards, and that's dictated by some other body, not this Legislature," Hinkle said.
WyWatch Family Action, a Wyoming-based family values group, has lobbied in favor of Brechtel's bills. Becky Vandeberghe of the group told the committee that she once spoke to a woman who had an abortion after she was raped.
She said the woman said she didn't receive counseling at the clinic before the procedure.
Rep. Sue Wallis, R-Recluse, spoke against Brechtel's bill. She said she was thankful of the efforts of the women of the past who worked to secure the right to safe abortions, and that many women died from botched abortions before the procedure was legalized.
"Regardless what you think philosophically, or religiously, we don't want to go back there; we don't want to go back to those brutal days," Wallis said.