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Arkansas Senate OKs ultrasound requirement for abortions

March 9, 2021 GMT
FILE - In this March 23, 2020 file photo, Gov. Asa Hutchinson, right, speaks in Little Rock, Ark. Hutchinson said Sunday, Feb. 21, 2021, he will not back former President Donald Trump if he runs for the White House in 2024, saying “it’s time” to move on to different voices in the Republican Party.  (Staton Breidenthal/The Arkansas Democrat-Gazette via AP, File)
FILE - In this March 23, 2020 file photo, Gov. Asa Hutchinson, right, speaks in Little Rock, Ark. Hutchinson said Sunday, Feb. 21, 2021, he will not back former President Donald Trump if he runs for the White House in 2024, saying “it’s time” to move on to different voices in the Republican Party. (Staton Breidenthal/The Arkansas Democrat-Gazette via AP, File)
FILE - In this March 23, 2020 file photo, Gov. Asa Hutchinson, right, speaks in Little Rock, Ark. Hutchinson said Sunday, Feb. 21, 2021, he will not back former President Donald Trump if he runs for the White House in 2024, saying “it’s time” to move on to different voices in the Republican Party. (Staton Breidenthal/The Arkansas Democrat-Gazette via AP, File)

LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (AP) — The Arkansas Senate approved legislation Monday that would require a woman undergoing an abortion to first view an ultrasound, the latest restriction advancing in a state considering banning the procedure altogether.

The majority-Republican Senate voted 29-6 in favor of the measure, sending it to the majority-GOP House. Similar requirements are in place in Louisiana, Tennessee, Texas and Wisconsin.

Arkansas already requires doctors who use an ultrasound before an abortion to offer to show the image to the woman undergoing the procedure. In addition to being shown the ultrasound, the proposal would also require doctors to provide a verbal description to the woman.

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“It is important for the mother to see the ultrasound image before the abortion rather than after, when it is too late,” Republican Sen. Cecile Bledsoe, the bill’s sponsor, said before the vote.

The bill passed on mostly party lines, with all but one of the Senate’s seven Democrats voting against the measure. Democratic lawmakers questioned Bledsoe about the women having to pay for the ultrasound.

“Why is the state not picking up the tab for something it mandates?” Democratic Sen. Linda Chesterfield said. Bledsoe said that may need to be addressed in follow-up legislation.

The legislation wouldn’t prevent women from looking away from the images and would not apply to a medical emergency.

The bill is advancing as Republican Gov. Asa Hutchinson is considering whether to sign legislation that would ban nearly all abortions in the state. Hutchinson has until Wednesday afternoon to take action on the bill before it becomes law without his signature.

Opponents called the ultrasound requirement unnecessary and intrusive.

“What we’re seeing in the legislature is a tsunami of heavy-handed government intrusions and power grabs that would interfere with people’s personal medical decisions and undermine personal freedom,” Holly Dickson, executive director of the American Civil Liberties Union of Arkansas, said in a statement.