HELENA – On a mostly party-line vote with Republicans in favor, the Montana Senate Monday endorsed a bill requiring abortion providers to give women patients the chance to see an ultrasound of their fetus.
Senate Bill 100, sponsored by Sen. Keith Regier, R-Kalispell, won preliminary approval on a 31-19 vote. All 30 Senate Republicans voted for the bill, as did Democratic Sen. Gene Vuckovich of Anaconda.
All “no” votes came from Democrats.
Under SB100, abortion providers in Montana must give women considering an abortion the option of viewing an ultrasound image of the fetus and listening to its heartbeat, if it’s audible.
The providers also must get a signed statement from the woman, acknowledging that she was told of this opportunity – and face a civil penalty of $1,000 if they don’t.
Regier said the information is similar to what patients get for other surgical medical procedures, to help them be informed.
“At three-and-a-half weeks of gestation, a heartbeat can be heard,” he said. “At six weeks, hands and feet can be seen developing.
“Helping a woman make the best choice should be the goal of every medical provider as well as legislator. … The more information patients receive about medical procedures done on them, the less anxiety they will experience.”
But Sen. Diane Sands, D-Missoula, said the choice to hear that information already exists, and that the bill “compels ideological speech.”
“Women already have access to this information and they make informed decisions about their lives and their bodies,” she said. “It’s our opinion that the effect of this bill is to harass doctors and medical clinics, with the effect to interfere with a woman making a constitutional protected right.”
Regier also noted that the requirement under SB100 has exceptions, such as when the abortion is to save the life of the mother.
After a final Senate vote on the bill this week, it will proceed to the House.