HARRISBURG -- A Republican-sponsored bill in the Pennsylvania House to mandate ultrasounds for women seeking abortions was put on hold to address questions that have arisen since a similar measure in Virginia ran into fierce criticism.
A spokesman for Majority Leader Mike Turzai, R-Allegheny, said Wednesday that concerns about the bill within the medical community will also be fully vetted before it will be advanced.
Sponsors of the Pennsylvania bill said it would require an ultrasound, but a woman would not have to look at the printout. It also would require that all questions about the fetus' health and gestational age be answered completely, establish guidelines for handling the ultrasound mandate, and set minimum standards for those who perform them.
Democratic caucus spokesman Bill Patton said the House should instead be addressing jobs, transportation, education and health care.
"The decision to put aside this divisive and ill-conceived bill creates an opening for both parties to work together productively on the issues that matter most," Patton said.
Yorker supports: York County legislator Seth Grove, R-Dover Township, who's anti-abortion, said he's among those in the county's House delegation who would support the legislation if it didn't mandate ultrasounds.
While he said the current bill doesn't actually require ultrasounds, others are interpreting it as a mandate.
"I don't see the need to mandate," he said. "Planned Parenthood already has protocol to do an ultrasound. ... The woman can say they don't want it ... but (the facility) would actually have to make an effort to show the results."
He said the ultrasound won't deter a woman who's determined to have an abortion, but "if you're on the fence about it, I think it'll add that extra touch and give you something to think about."
He said some language will be added to the bill to clarify the "mandate issue," and the bill could resurface by summer or fall.
But Rep. Eugene DePasquale, D-York City, said there's no question the bill is a mandate.
"If you you read the bill, the mandate is spelled out...even requiring the transvaginal ultrasound in some cases," he said. "It's a violation of the doctor-patient relationship."
He said whether the bill issues a mandate is not disputable, and it's also not fitting with the "limited government" platform on which the Republicans were elected.
"It allows the woman as the doctor is putting the picture in front of her face, to turn her eyes away," DePasquale said. "But the doctor must report that she turned her eyes away. If that's limited government, then I clearly don't understand the definition of limited government."
Virginia vote: Virginia's Senate on Tuesday passed a bill to require noninvasive ultrasounds after stripping out a provision that the exams involve a vaginal procedure.
A phone message seeking comment was not immediately returned by the prime sponsor, Rep. Kathy Rapp, R-Warren. But she told The Philadelphia Inquirer for a story published Wednesday that most ultrasounds would be performed through the woman's belly.
"Any doctor who wanted to proceed to transvaginal ultrasound would have to have a good reason," Rapp told the paper.
After the bill passed out of committee in early February, Rapp issued a statement casting it as a matter of "informed choice."
"At the most fundamental it's about respecting women by trusting her with all the facts to make a truly informed decision regarding the human life she is carrying," Rapp said.
-- Staff writer Christ ina Kauffman contributed to this report. Reach her at 505-5436, email@example.com, or follow her on Twitter at @YDYorkCounty.