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Corbett gets heat on ultrasound comment

HARRISBURG -- Gov. Tom Corbett is taking heat from abortion-rights supporters and Democrats over a comment he made about a bill that would require ultrasounds for women seeking to have abortions, saying those who didn't want to see the fetal images could "just ... close your eyes."

The Republican governor was asked at a news conference on Tuesday whether women should be made to watch the images if the legislation becomes law. He replied, "I don't know how you make anybody watch, OK• Because you just have to close your eyes."

Advocates of abortion rights, including several Democratic candidates for various offices, condemned Corbett's remarks as insulting to women, and the flap spread on the Internet. Friday's front page of The Patriot-News in Harrisburg bore the headline "You just have to close your eyes."

"It's not something we can just close our eyes and look the other way. And we certainly don't want our governor to be treating women's health care in that way, either," U.S. Rep. Allyson Schwartz, a Democrat who is seeking a fifth term, said at a news conference in Philadelphia.

Corbett spokesman Kevin Harley said his boss's comment was taken out of context by liberals "trying to make this into a political issue instead of stating the facts."

The bill, which has been sidelined at least temporarily because of what House Republican leaders say are questions raised by the medical community, is similar to a Virginia measure signed into law last week.

Republican supporters of the Virginia bill set off a national uproar by proposing to mandate a vaginal ultrasound procedure for women seeking abortions. That provision was replaced by language requiring only external sonograms before it was passed.

Corbett indicated Tuesday he would support a requirement for ultrasounds prior to abortions, provided that they are not medically invasive.

Although the bill does not specify the type of ultrasound, most abortions are performed in the first three months of pregnancy -- making a vaginal ultrasound medically necessary.

Corbett, who opposes abortion rights, signed a bill earlier this year that could force Pennsylvania clinics that perform abortions to undertake expensive facility and staff expansions.

The bill, the product of a bitter fight in the Legislature, was a response to allegations that newborns were killed in illegal late-term abortions performed in a now-closed Philadelphia clinic by workers who were not licensed or properly trained. The doctor who ran the clinic has pleaded not guilty to murder in the deaths of seven babies and a patient who died of a painkiller overdose.

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