The Legislature has approved a measure that would require doctors to ask women seeking an abortion in Minnesota if they want to first view images from an ultrasound scan.
The state House voted 79-48 on Thursday to approve the bill, which was identical to one approved earlier this month by the Senate. Both vote tallies in the Republican-majority Legislature were largely split along party lines, with few exceptions.
The bill now heads to the desk of DFL Gov. Mark Dayton, where it is likely to get a quick veto. The governor's office declined to comment on the House vote on Thursday, but Dayton has previously rejected other attempts by the Legislature to regulate abortion.
Thursday's debate on the House floor prompted a lengthy argument. Supporters said the bill allows women to gather more information before an abortion. The bill's author, Rep. Abigail Whelan, R-Ramsey, said the intent wasn't to force women to make a specific decision, but she made note of a study that showed that more women who viewed an ultrasound decided to continue with their pregnancy.
Whalen said that "I personally want to empower women, as I think they are strong enough, mentally and emotionally, they are capable of being asked a question: Would you like to see your own ultrasound?' "
But other lawmakers said the bill undermines rather than empowers women in their medical decisions.
Rep. Laurie Halverson, DFL-Eagan, said most women who seek abortions have already gone through a thoughtful decisionmaking process, sometimes with the help of their doctor, family or clergy members. She said the state shouldn't interfere by forcing doctors to offer an ultrasound viewing.
"By having that conversation, what the Minnesota Legislature is saying is: 'Women do not know their minds, women do not know their hearts and women do not know their bodies,' " Halverson said.
The vote drew attention from activists on both sides of the abortion debate. The group Minnesota Citizens Concerned for Life cheered its passage.
"Access to their ultrasounds enhances informed consent for women," Andrea Rau, the group's legislative director, said in a statement. "Women have a right to comprehensive information prior to an abortion, empowering them to make the best decision for them."
Opponents said the Legislature is attempting to interfere with conversations and decisions that should be between women and their doctors.
"It is completely unnecessary since women already have the option to view an ultrasound prior to an abortion," said Sarah Stoesz, president of Planned Parenthood Minnesota, North Dakota, South Dakota.