South Carolina lawmakers are considering legislation that would force women seeking abortions to view an ultrasound image of their fetus.
The proposed bill has angered abortion rights groups, who say politicians in South Carolina are trying to interfere in a medical decision women should make with their doctors.
"Politicians should not require a doctor to perform a medically unnecessary ultrasound, nor should they force a woman to view an ultrasound against her will," said Nancy Keenan, president of NARAL Pro-Choice America in Washington, D.C.
"The women of South Carolina would rather talk to their doctor about information they need to make private, personal medical decisions. This is not a place for interference by politicians," said Keenan.
But anti-abortion rights groups said that an ultrasound would change a woman's mind about having an abortion.
"Our goal is that the women will have the latest, most up-to-date information possible," said Tracie Carter, National Right to Life deputy press secretary.
"We want to show them that it's not just a blob of tissue, the baby has its own heartbeat, we want to give humanity to the living baby," said Carter.
Ten other states are considering similar legislation, including Mississippi, which is looking at proposal legislation that would have women listen to a fetal heartbeat in addition to seeing the ultrasound image.
Seven states in the United States currently have less strident laws concerning ultrasounds and abortions. Women in Wisconsin, Utah and Oklahoma, for example, must be offered an ultrasound before obtaining an abortion. However, no other state law goes so far as to require a woman to view the ultrasound image before an abortion.
Abortion rights advocates in the region fear the bill may have enough votes to pass.
"I would certainly hope that the good people who have been elected would do what's best for the people," said Christopher Hollis, vice president for governmental and political affairs for South Carolina's Planned Parenthood Health Systems.
"This is just trying to bring politics between a woman and her doctor with an ultrasound that has no medical relevance whatsoever," said Hollis. "It is nothing more than a barrier to health care, and it is completely not medically necessary in any way."
Republican South Carolina Rep. Greg Delleney is the chief sponsor of the bill. He said his bill expands the state's informed-consent law, which requires that women be offered alternatives to abortion and told about the development of the fetus.
Delleney's proposal would require patients to certify in writing that they'd viewed the ultrasound.