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Tom Corbett, Pennsylvania Governor, On Ultrasound Mandate: Just 'Close Your Eyes'

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During a discussion of a far-reaching mandatory ultrasound bill, Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Corbett (R) on Wednesday dismissed off-handedly the insinuation that the measure goes too far, saying, "You just have to close your eyes."

Corbett reaffirmed his support for the "Women's Right to Know" Act, which would require doctors to perform an ultrasound on a patient, offer her two personalized copies of the image and play and describe fetal heartbeat in detail before she can have an abortion -- "as long as it's not obtrusive."

He did not indicate whether or not he considered a transvaginal ultrasound to be an intrusive procedure, which the bill would require doctors to perform on a woman whose fetus is not developed enough to be visible by a regular, "jelly-on-the-belly" ultrasound.

Asked if he thinks the bill goes too far to make a woman look at the ultrasound image, Corbett responded, "You can't make anybody watch, okay? Because you just have to close your eyes. As long as it's on the exterior and not the interior."

Pennsylvania's ultrasound bill, unlike the revised version passed in Virginia, does not specify a type of ultrasound, so the doctor will have to use an "interior" procedure for most first-trimester abortions in order to meet the requirements of the law.

Even if the woman opts to "close [her] eyes," as Corbett suggests, the doctor will have to turn the ultrasound image toward her face, give her two signed copies of the printed image, describe the number of heartbeats per minute and tell her if that's normal or not for a fetus of that age. She then has to wait 24 hours and bring all the signed paperwork and both ultrasound images to her abortion doctor in order to have the procedure legally, and the doctor has to repeat to her the age of the fetus.

The Pennsylvania House postponed a scheduled vote on the bill this week because of "concerns raised by the medical community, among others," according to House Majority Leader Mike Turzai (R).

Patrick Murphy, a Democratic candidate for attorney general, called Corbett's comments "disturbingly offensive" and demanded that he apologize to Pennsylvania women.

"It's bad enough that Governor Corbett wants to force women to get an unnecessary and invasive procedure as a means of getting a government permission slip to undergo legal medical care," he said in a statement. "It's worse yet that he wants to shame them by shoving an ultrasound screen in their face. But it's unthinkable that he would so casually dismiss this by advising women to just close their eyes."

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