Austin – Texas Governor Rick Perry Thursday signed into law a measure requiring women seeking an abortion in the state to first get a sonogram.
Texas is one of several U.S. states with strong Republican legislative majorities proposing new restrictions on abortion this year. The Republican governor had designated the bill as an emergency legislative priority, putting it on a fast track.
Under the law, women will have to wait 24 hours after the sonogram before having an abortion, though the waiting time is two hours for those who live more than 100 miles from an abortion provider.
"Governor Perry was pleased to sign this important legislation, which bolsters our efforts to protect life by ensuring Texans are fully informed when considering such an important decision," said Katherine Cesinger, a spokeswoman for the governor.
A sonogram is an imaging technique using high-frequency sound waves to produce images of a developing baby in a woman's uterus.
Under the measure, women will be offered the option of hearing the heartbeat and seeing the sonogram image, which they may decline. But the woman's doctor must describe the image, explaining the size of the embryo or fetus and the presence of organs and limbs.
In certain cases, including those involving rape and incest victims or serious fetal abnormalities, the woman could decline to hear the description of the sonogram.
Opponents of the legislation said the law interferes in the doctor-patient relationship by adding a government requirement for a procedure that could be traumatizing to women going through an already difficult situation.
During debate on the House floor in March, Democratic state Representative Carol Alvarado wielded a trans-vaginal probe used for sonograms early in pregnancy.
"This is government intrusion at its best," she said during that debate.