An abortion center would be required to position an ultrasound screen so a mother would automatically see her fetus, under a bill that is the legislative priority of Nebraska Right to Life.

The bill (LB675), if passed, would be one of the strongest ultrasound laws in the country,” said Julie Schmit-Albin, executive director of Nebraska Right to Life.

The measure is one of two ultrasound bills introduced by Lincoln Sen. Tony Fulton, and one of three bills introduced this year directly related to abortions.

Fulton’s second bill (LB676) would require the abortion center to offer the mother an opportunity to view the ultrasound screen, something that Planned Parenthood already does in its Lincoln clinic.

Ultrasounds are used to determine the gestation period of the fetus and its location, and to help indicate if there is a problem, like a multiple pregnancy or tilted uterus, said Christine Funk, executive director of Planned Parenthood of Nebraska and Council Bluffs.

The second bill (LB676) maintains the status quo, Schmit-Albin said.

The Right to Life group’s priority bill (LB675) would require that the ultrasound screen be positioned so the woman could see the picture. “She has the option to avert her eyes if she doesn’t want to see it,” Schmit-Albin said.

The bill would also require that the ultrasound be taken an hour before the abortion, thus assuring that the mother has an opportunity to “see her baby and reject abortion at that point,” Schmit-Albin said.

The bill requiring the position of the screen is “incredibly disrespectful to women, a violation of the doctor-patient relationship and an outrageous government intrusion into a private matter,” Funk said.

Sixteen states have ultrasound laws requiring abortion clinics to offer a woman the opportunity to view the ultrasound. A more rigorous Oklahoma law, which is similar to the priority bill, is being challenged in court.

Some people are afraid that the stronger bill would be challenged in the courts, Schmit-Albin said in an e-mail news release.

“We on the other hand welcome the challenge. Do we want to codify status quo for abortionists or make a difference and save lives? LB675 goes the furthest to save lives,” she wrote.

Both Fulton bills would require that abortion clinics have available a list, compiled by the state, of all the places that provide free ultrasounds.

That provision appears to be a way to promote crisis pregnancy clinics, which are not legitimate medical facilities, Funk said. The goal of these clinics, which offer free ultrasounds, is “to prevent women from having an abortion. They have an agenda. They are not neutral. We find that objectionable,” she said.

A third bill (LB594), offered by Sen. Cap Dierks of Ewing, on behalf of a number of pro-choice groups, is even more objectionable, according to Funk.

The bill would require testing before an abortion to determine if the woman has risk factors that would increase her chance of having psychological and other complications afterward, said Greg Schleppenbach, with the Nebraska Catholic Conference.

No other state has a similar law. “This is some new territory,” Schleppenbach said.

The bill would make abortion inaccessible, if not illegal, Funk said. “It is a really onerous bill,” she said. 

Reach Nancy Hicks at 473-7250 or nhicks@journalstar.com.