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by James Tillman

CHARLESTON, West Virginia, March 15, 2010 (LifeSiteNews.com)—A bill requiring that women be given the opportunity to view any ultrasound image of their child taken before or during an abortion passed the West Virginia Senate unanimously on Saturday. The measure passed after an amendment was added to repeal penalties against physicians violating West Virginia's Right to Know law.

Gov. Joe Manchin has said he will sign the bill, which passed the final day of the regular legislative session.

“Information empowers women to make informed choices,” stated Karen Cross, president of West Virginians for Life.  “Ultrasound legislation protects the mother’s right to see her unborn child in real-time ultrasound.”

She continued: “Because the decision to have an abortion is such a major one, legislators recognized that the state should guarantee the mother access to information relevant to her decision.”

The bill came as an addition to West Virginia's preexisting Right to Know law.  This law requires physicians to inform women of the risks associated with abortion twenty-four hours before the abortion occurs. 

According to Cross, West Virginia abortion clinics have previously denied women’s request to see an ultrasound image of their baby.

“When [the abortion facility does] the ultrasound, even if [women] ask to see the ultrasound they are declined,” she told LifeSiteNews (LSN).  “In most cases they do not see or they do not know that they even have the ability to look at the ultrasound.  In many cases they don’t know to ask.”

Now women will be informed at least 24 hours ahead of the abortion that they have the right to view an ultrasound, if an ultrasound is being performed.  They will also be required to sign a form detailing the same information when they arrive at the abortion facility.  The law does not, however, require that an ultrasound be performed.  

Key to its unanimous passage in the Senate was an amendment repealing many of the penalties to which physicians violating the original Right to Know law were subject. 

Previous law required the doctor's licensing board to reprimand him for his first violation of the law, and to revoke his license to practice medicine upon the second violation.  It also opened the physician to civil action for failing to instruct his patient correctly.

The new law drops these penalties, and instead states that a physician who willfully violates the Right to Know law “may be subject to sanctions as levied by the licensing board governing his or her profession.”

Sen. Dan Foster, who had opposed the original measure, changed his mind because of the modification.

“I will reluctantly support it only because the onerous penalties for physicians that were in the present code in the Woman’s Right to Know Act will be eliminated,” he said, according to the Register-Herald.

He elsewhere said that the compromise was a “vast improvement” and created a situation where there was “little if any enforcement” of doctors' compliance with the Right to Know law.

“I was surprised the [anti-abortion] lobby agreed to that amendment,” said Margaret Chapman Pomponio, according to the Charleston Daily Mail.  Pomponio is the executive director of WV Focus: Reproductive Education & Equality (WV FREE), a pro-abortion group.

She continued: “But it's still, overall, an objectionable piece of legislation.” WV FREE had opposed the bill on grounds that it was “meant to shame women and intimidate providers.”

Karen Cross called the accusation absurd.

“Absolutely not,” she said. “It empowers women. The more information a woman has, the more empowered she is. We know that women have been denied the ability to see ultrasound pictures.

“It’s all about choice to see the ultrasound pictures.”

She also pointed out that abortionists will still be held accountable to their licensing boards.

“They’re still held to the same standards as any other person licensed through the board of medicine,” she told LSN.

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