How Can Senators Ignore an Overwhelming Show of Support for Ultrasound bill?

By Delaware State Sen. Bryant Richardson

Pro-life Delaware State
Sen. Bryant Richardson

Last week, I mentioned that I was caught off guard when I found out my ultrasound bill, Senate Bill 108 (SB 108), was being heard in the Senate Legislative Oversight and Sunset Committee (SLOSC).

I had notified the SLOSC chairperson that I had already made a commitment to attend the Banking & Insurance Committee hearing that was meeting at the same time and would not be able to attend.

Because of a technical problem in joining the Banking & Insurance Committee hearing, I was able to tune into the Senate Legislative Oversight and Sunset Committee hearing. 

That was when I found out SB 108 was on the agenda, the only bill on the agenda.

As the author, I asked for the bill to be tabled and instead be heard at a future date, so that I could inform proponents about a hearing date and time. 

The request was denied. 

Other senators (who have been serving much longer that I have) told me they have never heard of such a request by the prime sponsor of a bill being refused.

During the hearing, the only members of the public registered to speak about SB 108 were all opposed to the bill. 

My question is: How did the opponents know of the hearing date and time, but not one proponent?

This makes you wonder about the effectiveness of the posting of notices of the hearings.

Following a one-hour discussion about SB 108, SLOSC chairperson Kyle Gay said she would accept written comments about the bill via email for the next 48 hours.

During that 48-hour period of time, 1,545 emails arrived in my inbox. Of that total, 1,540 emails were in support of the senate bill, 992 from females and 548 from males.

There were, in fact, emails sent in opposition. How many? A total of five.

Following is a sample of one of those emails in support of the bill.

I have had two abortions. I asked both doctors very specific questions: Is there a heartbeat, and is it formed yet?

Both times I was fed the same lie. A few years later when pregnant with my son, I saw him on ultrasound. Beating heart. Arms and legs. Same age as those I had aborted. 

I can’t express the degree of anger and betrayal I felt. I would never have made the choice I made had I been told the truth. Don’t allow this to happen to another woman. Treat abortion as every other medical procedure. Don’t remove a woman’s choice. Empower her with all the facts.

The letter is from Leslie Dean, a registered nurse in Delaware and Maryland, a forensic nurse examiner and an obstetrical nurse sonographer.

Then came the Friday ‘vote’

When the notice to vote on releasing the bill from committee was sent out on Friday, the following documents accompanied the request:

• A letter from the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists opposing SB 108

• A second letter from the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists opposing SB 108

• A letter from Christiana Care opposing SB 108

• A letter from the Delaware Nurses Association Board of Director opposing SB 108

• A single letter in support of SB 108

• Two documents containing 61 emails, 58 in support of SB 108 and three opposed.

What I find concerning is that there was nothing said about this being a ‘sampling’ of the emails. I cannot imagine that all others on the SLOSC did not receive a similar number.

In fact, another member of the SLOSC, Senator Brian Pettyjohn, told me he received 1,693 emails in that 48-hour period of time, with just seven opposed to the bill.

What about the opposition?

Following is an excerpt from one of the letters from the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists:

Government serves a valuable role in the protection of public health and safety and the provision of essential health services. The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) supports this proper role of government. Laws that veer from these functions and unduly interfere with patient-physician relationships are not appropriate.

Laws that require physicians to give, or withhold, specific information when counseling patients, or that mandate which tests, procedures, treatment alternatives or medicines physicians can perform, prescribe, or administer are ill-advised.

Interestingly, one of the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists letters notes:

More than 25 states (as of January 2021) have passed ultrasonography requirements on the provision of abortion care. The earliest laws date to the mid-1990s. These laws require an ultrasound to be offered and/or performed prior to an abortion.

Here are my thoughts

I am not surprised that organizations representing doctors and nurses would be opposed to government mandates. However, responsible legislators do indeed have a major role in making sure patients’ rights are protected.

And let me add one more fact. There is also an organization called the American Association of Pro-life Obstetricians. Its website includes these words:

We are the largest organization of pro-life obstetricians and gynecologists in the world. We know what it is like to practice good medicine in a hostile academic environment. We understand the need for absolutely accurate and scientifically irrefutable information.

The Courts weigh in

Courts have ruled that: 

As the patient must bear the expense, pain and suffering of any injury from medical treatment, his/her right to know all material facts pertaining to the proposed treatment cannot be dependent upon the self-imposed standards of the medical profession.

True consent to what happens to oneself is the exercise of a choice, and that entails an opportunity to evaluate knowledgeably the options available and the risks attendant upon each.

Though the physician may feel strongly about the correct course of action, It is the prerogative of the patient, not the physician, to determine for himself/herself the direction in which his/her interests lie, and that requires full disclosure of the nature of the procedure and all the risks and alternatives which a reasonable patient would need to make an informed choice. 

Even complications occurring only 1% of the time must be disclosed.

What now?

The bill was NOT released from committee. Three senators are keeping the bill from being released. They are:

Senator Kyle Evans Gay: Kyle.Gay@Delaware.gov

Senator Marie Pinkney: Marie.Pinkney@delaware.gov

Senator Stephanie Hansen: Stephanie.Hansen@delaware.gov

If one of the three had even voted ‘unfavorable’ on the bill, it would be allowed a hearing in the Senate. 

This is no longer an issue of a right to abortion. This is about the right of women to make an informed choice.

One percent

Think about that one percent risk that the courts have ruled physicians must disclose to their patients.

If physicians did this, children would be saved and many women would be spared heartaches by learning too late their decisions were not based on the evidence. 

Maybe not one senator would change the way he or she would vote as a result of a hearing on the Senate floor. 

However, I would like to think that those who say they are for a woman’s right to choose would recognize the importance of the ‘right’ of a woman to be fully informed about the risks and consequences of her decision.

I feel at peace advocating for the unborn, those who have no voice unless we speak out for them.

When I read God’s Word, I believe every life is precious, that God cares about each and every one of us at every stage of our lives.

I cannot imagine being silent on this issue. Silence can be seen as acceptance. A civil society must protect the most vulnerable and innocent.