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Illinois Ultrasound Bill: Battle Rages On In Controversial House Bill's Amendments

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NARAL and other women's groups protest Romney's support for policies like those being considered in Illinois, which they consider restrictive of women's access to reproductive health care.
NARAL and other women's groups protest Romney's support for policies like those being considered in Illinois, which they consider restrictive of women's access to reproductive health care.

One of two abortion-related bills that flew through the Illinois House's Agriculture Committee last month picked up a slew of amendments before passing out of committee Thursday morning.

Rather than furthering the restrictive reach of HB 4085, the "Ultrasound Opportunity Act," which would require abortion facilities to take an ultrasound image before providing an abortion, Amendments 3-7, introduced by Democratic representatives including Kelly Cassidy, Sara Feigenholtz and Lou Lang, seek to undermine the bill's effectiveness or extend its restrictions to men's sexual healthcare.

The five amendments include Rep. Kelly Cassidy's pointed "Viagra Amendment," which would require men seeking prescriptions to treat erectile dysfunction to receive written warnings about possible side effects and offer the option of viewing a graphic video about risks.

Cassidy painted the amendment as a counter-attack to male legislators she believes are attempting to legislate women's health too restrictively.

"If they're serious about us not being about to make our own health care decisions, then I'm just as serious about them not being able to make theirs," she told HuffPost Chicago.

The seventh amendment, sponsored by Rep. Mary Flowers, takes a similar angle, adding a provision that would prevent insurance providers from covering erectile dysfunction medication if they don't also provide coverage for birth controls.

Three additional amendments address the ultrasound itself, requiring women to consent to the costs associated with the ultrasound (which may not be covered by insurance), and extending the pre-procedure ultrasound requirement to surgical treatments unrelated to reproductive health, according to the American Civil Liberties Union of Illinois.

In spite of the equalizing amendments, women's health advocates are discouraged that the bill has advanced at all. Its introduction, through the state House's Agriculture and Conservation Committee, was criticized by opponents as an underhanded maneuver in an inappropriate platform for healthcare discussions.

The ACLU will host a panel discussion on the topic Thursday at the Round Lake Public Library with guest speakers Dr. Mandy Gittler for All Women's Health, and Lorie Chaiten, the Reproductive Rights Project Director for the Illinois chapter of the ACLU.

Supporters of the bill, and its counterpart HB 4117, which imposes additional requirements on clinics that provide abortions and other reproductive health services, argue that both pieces of legislation are pro-choice, and don't seek to ban abortions outright.

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