Ultrasound imaging is the current rage of the Medical Right, the
ideologically motivated pseudo-medical organizations that are shaping reproductive
health care policy and practice to conform to their unscientific beliefs about
the beginning of life.
Ultrasound is an important medical diagnostic technology that is
increasingly being used as a propaganda tool in the abortion wars. Crisis
pregnancy centers are investing heavily in this serious medical technology
in order to influence women who are considering an abortion. Although abortion
opponents claim ultrasound images dissuade women from having an abortion,
there is no reliable evidence that this is case. However, there is research
indicating that ultrasounds can cause harm, both because of the nature of
the ultrasound imaging technology and the faulty operation of equipment or
interpretation of results.
No action has been taken against crisis pregnancy centers that freely
use sonograms for their propaganda and evangelical purposes, and there is
little evidence of regulatory oversight by state licensing agencies and the
FDA. In some cases, the government has even aided crisis pregnancy centers
to buy the equipment. As a result, vulnerable pregnant women are largely left
to fend for themselves, sorting out potential health threats, the sufficiency
of the exams, and their own personal needs.
Download a .pdf of the complete report.
A pin-up calendar being sold by Arkansas Right-to-Life shows the current
rage of the anti-abortion movement: ultrasound imaging. The calendar, called
“Life Before Birth,” features monthly side-by-side pictures of
a newborn baby and a 3-D sonogram of a fetus.
This new fetal imagery is part of a vast multimillion-dollar immersion of
the anti-abortion movement into the non-medical use of ultrasound equipment
as a propaganda tool. What is unclear is if it is successful, or ethical.
The anti-abortion movement has fallen head-over-heels for ultrasound technology
or sonography. They call it “window to the womb,” also the name
of a video that is widely circulated in the Religious Right. God
Tube is also loaded up with fetal ultrasound videos.
This love-fest with ultrasound seeks to convince the public that the fetus
is equal to an infant and women that they must bear a child rather than seek
an abortion. With sonograms in hand, anti-choice advocates aim
to persuade legislators to further restrict abortion. In addition, they
tout the equipment in their fundraising drives.
Crisis pregnancy centers are using the new attention to ultrasound as bait
to draw women into their centers and conduct ultrasounds for evangelical purposes
or propaganda purposes. The woman who is the target of this misuse of ultrasound
imaging is rarely aware of the purpose: to convince her she must bear a child
rather than seek an abortion.
Advocates for the non-medical use of sonograms have two basic strategies.
One is to equip the thousands of so-called crisis pregnancy centers across
the country with ultrasound machines, in some cases garnering government aid
to pay for them . The other, to be covered in part two of this report, is
a wave of proposed laws under the guise of “informed consent,”
which would require abortion clinics and doctors to conduct ultrasounds on
pregnant women before providing abortion services. Some of these proposed
laws go so far as to require that women view the images.
The expansive use of ultrasound for non-medical purposes is not benign. There
are concerns about potential harm to a developing fetus and the ethics of
using a medical diagnostic product for propaganda purposes.
What is Ultrasound?
Ultrasound is a tool for medical
diagnostic imaging. It works by using high-frequency sound waves and their
echoes. In medical imaging, a probe sends pulses into the body and when the
waves hit a boundary, such as tissue or an organ, echoes are reflected back
to a computer that calculates the distances and type of boundary, creating
an image visible on a screen. Each
image involves millions of pulses and reflections. Ultrasound equipment
has varying decibel levels (2 to 10 MHz), and ultrasound produces vibrations
and heat, both of which rise with higher frequencies or extended exposure.
Some ultrasound machines can produce 3-D or 4-D images, along the lines of
a video, and Doppler
ultrasound can make it possible to hear the fetal heartbeat.
Ultrasound equipment is considered a prescription medical device and is regulated
by the federal Food and Drug Administration. The FDA sets the standard for
the level of energy to be used for fetal ultrasounds.The newest ultrasound
equipment - and there are many varieties - is as compact as a laptop computer.
Prices range from $20,000 to $50,000, although more elaborate models can cost
as much as $200,000.
The U.S. ultrasound market hit $1.33 billion in revenues in 2006, according
to Klein Biomedical Consultants, the leading industry analyst, and sales are
expected to reach $1.76 billion annually by 2011. Four companies control the
U.S. market: GE Healthcare, Philips Medical Systems, Siemans Medical Solutions
and SonoSite. In addition, a substantial amount of used equipment is available
for purchase on an open and largely unregulated market.
Ultrasound imagery has many legitimate medical uses in pregnancy care. Sonography
is a valuable diagnostic tool for obstetricians in determining the position
of the fetus, whether there are multiple fetuses, ectopic pregnancy or fetal
The equipment is also used in abortion care, and most abortion clinics have
ultrasound equipment, according to Vicki Saporta, president of the National Abortion Federation. One particular use is in dating the pregnancy,
especially important in a medication or “pill” abortion regimen
using RU-486 (Mifeprex).
Use of Sonography for Anti-Abortion Propaganda
Crisis pregnancy centers (also called pregnancy help centers and pregnancy
resource centers) across the country have invested heavily in ultrasound equipment
as part of their self-proclaimed "ministries" to woo women and convince
them to reject abortions. Estimates indicate there are 2,500 to 3,500 crisis
pregnancy centers. Many are supported by public funds.
Ultrasound has fueled an independent industry of equipment, training, manuals,
insurance, lawyers, fundraising, advertising and promotion for crisis pregnancy
crisis. In the past, crisis pregnancy centers offered free pregnancy tests
as bait to draw in women and bend their ear, but over-the-counter tests dulled
their star power. Sonograms are the 21st century replacement for pregnancy
“Many centers are acknowledging frustration over the fact that their
ministries are becoming more social welfare agencies that cutting edge forces
to reduce abortion … Centers that add ultrasound, pregnancy diagnosis
and other medical services are attracting more abortion-minded women,”
wrote Thomas A. Glessner, president of the National
Institute of Family & Life Advocates in Virginia, a nonprofit that collected $731,000 in 2006 to provide training
and counseling to crisis pregnancy centers that are adding ultrasound equipment.
In a publication called At
The Center, Glessner wrote: “Through the use of ultrasound …
women will bond with their unborn babies and choose life." NIFLA advisors
include Dr. Byron Calhoun, founder of the American Association of Pro-Life
Obstetricians and Gynecologists, and Dr. Elizabeth Shadigian, AAPLOG president.
Glessner, who earns $100,000 in salary and benefits at NIFLA, refers to evangelism
as “the core” of the pregnancy crisis center. “NIFLA firmly
believes that PRC’s (pregnancy centers) should place evangelism and
a presentation of the gospel as a top priority in their ministries,” he wrote.
NIFLA works closely with the Religious Right group Focus
on the Family, which began its Option Ultrasound Program (OUP) in 2004,
investing $4.2 million in a single year to pay for training and ultrasound
equipment for crisis pregnancy centers. As of December 2007, the program manager
reported that 363 ultrasound machines had been placed in centers and trainings
held in 48 states.
Other groups have joined the ultrasound bandwagon. Heartbeat
International, which claims 1,100 affiliates, says 460 of its affiliates
are now equipped with ultrasound capability.
In New Jersey, Chris
Slattery, who runs 15 crisis pregnancy centers and traces his anti-abortion
credentials to Operation Rescue, began operating a mobile ultrasound center
in a motor home that parks outside abortion clinics. Slattery explained that
it would have the
additional benefit of providing bathrooms for anti-abortion protestors
and he soon began calling for donations to support the effort.
Focus on the Family claims that “research shows” that 89% of
women considering abortion change their minds after having an ultrasound and
counseling at a crisis pregnancy center. An ultrasound plus counseling convinces
more women than counseling alone, wrote Focus on the Family’s Sanctity
of Life Director Kim Conroy.
Other claims rely upon anecdotal stories, reprinted in anti-abortion literature,
of women at crisis pregnancy centers who change their minds when they see
the ultrasound. An Alabama pregnancy center wrote to Heartlink,
a Focus on the Family online publication, about a college student who came
to its facilities. “As soon as the embryo was located, the screen was
turned toward the patient … Tears began roll down her cheeks. It was
at that moment that she said she couldn’t go through with the abortion
– she would carry and keep the baby.”
These stories and statistics have no scientific basis or support. No reliable
study has measured the effect of ultrasound on a woman’s decision whether
or not to bear a child, according to a search of literature and inquiries
to research organizations, including The Guttmacher Institute.
Vicki Saporta of the National Abortion Federation said that reports from
abortion clinics with ultrasound equipment indicate that women do not change
their minds about an abortion after seeing an ultrasound. She also knows of
no study measuring women’s response.
In fact, some studies undercut the claims of anti-abortion advocates. One
indicates that use of fetal sonography results in a higher rate of abortion
when fetal abnormalities are detected. “Where detection of fetal abnormality
was a specific aim of the examination, the number of terminations of pregnancy
for fetal anomaly increased,” according to one study (Neilson JP. Ultrasound
for fetal assessment in early pregnancy. Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews
1995, Issue 2. Art. No.: CD000182. DOI: 10.1002/14651858.CD000182).
In some countries, sonography
is utilized - in a universally condemned practice - to identify the gender
of the fetus, after
which females are aborted.
Responses to fetal imagery may be in the eye of the beholder. Feminist scholars
who have analyzed the use of fetal imagery in the anti-abortion movement’s
drive to establish the personhood of the fetus point out that the images are
dependent upon interpretation and context. They are “visual politics,”
according to Dr. Carol Mason of Oklahoma State University, author of “Killing
for Life: The Apocalyptic Narrative of Pro-Life Politics.” Mason points
out that sonography images used in public materials generally show a late-term
fetal image, which more closely resembles a baby after birth. Earlier pictures
may show a profile, and rarely present a fetus until the eighth week when
the eyes come to the front of the face.
Sonograms, unlike the fetal images on posters and trucks, show pictures of
an individual fetus. But the fetus is still seen as an independent being,
separate from the woman carrying the pregnancy. Understanding the ultrasound
picture is also heavily dependent upon the interpretation of a sonographer
or doctor. “Such pictures can show autonomy or dependence, humanity
or animality, depending on the context in which it is presented,” according
to “Images of Embryos Used by Anti-Abortion Activists,” an online
companion to Developmental Biology.
Studies do show that happily pregnant parents appreciate and rely upon ultrasound.
One study by D. H. Petorius published in the Journal of Ultrasound in Medicine
found that expectant parents felt more bonded to a fetus after 3/4D sonography,
and a 2007 review in the British Journal of Midwifery found that expectant
parents appreciated the assurance that the pregnancy was progressing as it
But a Canadian study published in the Journal of Perinatalogy reported on
interviews of a small number of women with unexpected diagnoses (multiple
births or fetal abnormality) and found that women’s experiences of ultrasound
were influenced by physical and environmental factors and the behavior of
the examiner. Of note, women identified “being objectified by the examination"
as a factor influencing their response.
Fetal Imagery Used in Pursuit of Evangelical or Entertainment Purposes
The professional organization for sonography rejects non-diagnostic uses
as does the FDA, which regulates the equipment. But no action has been taken
against crisis pregnancy centers that freely use sonograms for their propaganda
and evangelical purposes, and there is little evidence of regulatory oversight.
The American Institute of Ultrasound in Medicine objected to the purchase of ultrasound equipment by actor Tom Cruise for personal
use in monitoring the pregnancy of partner Katie Holmes. AIUM reaffirmed a
statement of “prudent use” that “strongly discourages the
non-medical use of ultrasound for psychosocial or entertainment purposes.
The use of either two-dimensional (2D) or three-dimensional (3D) ultrasound
to only view the fetus, obtain a picture of the fetus, or determine the fetal
gender without a medication indication is inappropriate and contrary to responsible
medical practice.” The statement, published in the January 2006 “Sound
Waves,” was endorsed by the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists,
the Society for Maternal-Fetal Medicine, and several other medical organizations.
AIUM also opposed the operation of portrait studios that make “keepsake”
In 2004, the FDA warned against the “keepsake” nonmedical uses
of fetal ultrasound, calling it “risky business.” “Expectant
women and their families need to know that the long-term effects of repeated
ultrasound exposures on the fetus are not fully known. In light of all that
remains unknown, having a prenatal ultrasound for non-medical reasons is not
a good idea,” according to the FDA magazine.
At the time, the FDA supposedly cracked down on the “keepsake”
facilities for promoting a device for other than its approved use, and for
using a prescription device without a prescription. But a trade publication
reported that a new Bush appointee later softened the warning letters that
stopped “keepsake” fetal portrait studios. Some insiders reportedly said that anti-abortion politics played a role.
Now the fetal portrait studios are back. Many, such as Miracles
in Progress in Las Vegas or First Look Sonogram in California, advertise on the Internet. Fetal
Fotos operates in seven states, offers franchises, and is linked online
by ProLife.com and Life Dynamics,
a virulently anti-abortion group in Texas.
Ultrasounds -- Harm or no?
Harm from ultrasound imagery can occur both because of the nature of the
ultrasound and faulty operation of equipment or interpretation of results.
Laboratory studies have looked at harm from excessive fetal exposure to ultrasound but more research
In 2004, the FDA noted that fetal ultrasound scanning is considered safe, but “can’t
be considered completely innocuous.” The FDA wrote: “Ultrasound
is a form of energy, and even at low levels, laboratory studies have shown
it can produce physical effects in tissue, such as jarring vibrations and
a rise in temperature.”
Fetal studies of guinea pigs found adverse effects on cell division in bone
marrow from the raised temperature in Doppler ultrasound. A 2006 study found
disruption of the normal migration of brain cells in fetal mice, which, if
it occurred in humans, could potentially cause autism, mental retardation,
epilepsy and learning disabilities. The lead researcher, Dr. Pasko Rakic of
Yale University School of Medicine, said pregnant women should avoid unnecessary ultrasound scans until more research
Studies of humans
exposed to ultrasound have shown possible adverse effects including retarded
growth, dyslexia, delayed speech development and greater left-handedness among boys, which may be connected to cognitive
One specialist who has studied the research believes recent
studies require a reassessment of safety, especially in light of nonmedical
uses.“Until there is such a body of scientific data confirming the benefits
of 3D/4D entertainment/bonding ultrasound in unselected patients, its dissemination
into commercial facilities should be strongly discouraged,” wrote Dr.
Focus on the Family’s Physicians Resource Council issued a
statement on the use of Doppler ultrasound in the first trimester in 2005,
cautioning that it should only be used in “a case in which the mother
is considering the option of abortion but might be more inclined to choose
life after hearing the sound of the fetal heart.” Doppler should not
be used as a routine test “to ensure that the risk from exposure to
ultrasound energy is as low as reasonably possible, especially in the first
A second concern about harm arises from the operation of fetal sonography
by untrained or inexperienced operators who fail to diagnose or inform a woman
about a serious condition. “Failure
to diagnose” a fetal sonogram has been the reason for a large number
of medical malpractice claims.
“Missing an anomaly on a sonogram performed for a standard indication,
such as dating, is the most frequent type of litigation,” according
to the abstract of a 1998 article in Annals of the New York Academy of Sciences.
Highly-qualified personnel are essential to accurate interpretation. The
on Interpretation of Ultrasound Examinations states: “Ultrasound
studies shall be supervised and interpreted by a physician with training and
experience in the specific area of sonography .… Although a sonographer
may play a critical role in extracting the information … the rendering
of the final diagnosis of ultrasound studies represents the practice of medicine,
and, therefore, is the responsibility of the supervising physician.”
In some medical circles, discussion arises as to which medical personnel should interpret fetal sonograms - radiologists
or obstetricians, both medical doctors. But sonographers, or those who take
the pictures, should not be doing primary interpretation, these experts say,
while admitting that there is dismal or no regulation. The regulation of medical
practices, including sonography, is left to the states. Experts concurred
that ultrasound posed a “buyer beware” situation and that patients
need to understand that there are big differences in qualifications and equipment.
While NIFLA advises pregnancy centers that ultrasound can be performed only
by trained personnel and by a doctor’s recommendation, first-hand accounts
of crisis pregnancy center workers indicate that physicians may be distant
participants in the process, if involved at all. At a national conference,
a crisis pregnancy staff member described unease about ultrasound and said
that she knew at least one clinic
was allowing untrained volunteers to perform ultrasounds. A first-hand
story carried online by Heartlink, the Focus on the Family ultrasound website,
describes a center in which an
impatient woman sought an ultrasound. The story describes how a sonographer
came from home to do it. “The sonographer never knows what she’ll
see when she does a scan …. This window into her womb showed her a darling
little 14 week, 1 day old, bouncing, dancing baby,” the article reports.
Nowhere in the piece is the slightest indication of a doctor ordering the
ultrasound or interpreting it.
Aside from liability issues, a survey published in the Journal of Ultrasound
Medicine highlighted another potential problem: patients who forgo medical
and diagnostic ultrasounds because they have had a nonmedical ultrasound.
A majority of those surveyed - obstetricians and radiologists in Maine - found
this to be a worry. Majorities also believed that nonmedical ultrasounds might
leave fetal anomalies undetected and give patients false reassurances. More
than one-third believed that licensing boards should discipline those conducting
the nonmedical ultrasounds.
With these questions, why does the Religious Right staunchly support ultrasound
technology for non-medical uses? At its core, ultrasound relies on the same
fetal imagery that has roiled the anti-abortion community from the outset
- whether “The Silent Scream” or giant fetus posters hoisted outside
abortion clinics. Ultrasound represents a high-tech maneuver to raise the
status of the fetus above that of a woman .
This use of ultrasound technology may be one of the only areas in which sophisticated
medical imaging equipment is used for propaganda purposes, and despite any
serious evidence that it has any effect.
While the Religious Right has fallen for this equipment, state licensing
agencies and the FDA have fallen flat in oversight responsibilities. In some
cases, the government has even aided crisis pregnancy centers to buy the equipment.
As a result, vulnerable pregnant women are largely left to fend for themselves,
sorting out potential health threats, the sufficiency of the exams, and their
own personal needs.
Cynthia L. Cooper
February 4, 2008
Updated February 5 and 13, 2008
“Ultrasound May End Abortion,” declared Care Net, an evangelistic
anti-abortion advocacy group, in 2003. The Medical Right believes that seeing
in utero images will convince women with unwanted pregnancies that they really
do want to be pregnant and do not want an abortion. As described in Part 1
of this report, no scientific study or evidence supports the proposition that
women change their minds about abortion after seeing a sonogram. However,
lack of evidence has not stopped a new wave of legislation in Congress and
the states to require pregnant women to have or to be offered a sonogram prior
to having an abortion.
Members of the U.S. House and Senate who oppose abortion rights are the latest
to have taken up the siren call of ultrasound mandates. On January 17, 2008,
members of the House introduced the “Ultrasound
Informed Consent Act” (HR 5032),
which, despite its name, applies only to abortions and not to ultrasound in
general. The measure was introduced in the Senate in September
In state legislatures, 29 similar bills are pending in 17 states, according
to The Guttmacher Institute.
Thirteen states (with number 14 pending) have already enacted ultrasound
requirements for abortion providers. The requirements, while taking different
forms, are generally called “informed consent.” Proposals were
first seen in 2005 and have increased sharply since then, according to The
Commonly, the proposals require that a woman seeking an abortion be given
an ultrasound before the abortion and offered the opportunity to see the image.
Some proposals have sought to require the woman to view the image, although
none in this form has yet become law. Other proposals require the doctor who
will perform the abortion to advise the woman about the availability of ultrasound,
require that the woman be allowed to see an ultrasound if it is performed,
or require an ultrasound in abortions after the first trimester.
The federal proposal was first introduced in the U.S. Senate on September
17, 2008 by Senator Sam Brownback (R-KS), a fiercely anti-abortion legislator.
It and the identical House proposal have been referred to committees.
requires an abortion provider to perform an obstetric ultrasound on a woman
seeking an abortion, to give an explanation of the result, to “display
the ultrasound images so that the pregnant woman may view them, and …
provide a medical description of the ultrasound images, which shall include
the dimensions of the embryo or the fetus and the presence of external members
and internal organs, if present and viewable.” Exceptions are made in
cases of life-threatening “physical” injuries or illnesses. A
doctor who fails to comply can be fined $100,000 for the first offense and
$250,000 for subsequent offenses.
In a press
release issued when he introduced the bill, Senator Brownback said, "I
am hopeful that this bill will inform women and will cause a deeper reflection
on the humanity of unborn children.” In answering questions for Washingtonpost.com,
he made goal clearer. “Abortion is the destruction of an innocent child,”
he said. “It would be my hope that this bill would make them rarer.”
The Guttmacher Institute notes: “Since
routine ultrasound is not considered medically necessary as a component of
first trimester abortion, the requirements appear to be a veiled attempt to
personify the fetus and dissuade a woman from obtaining an abortion. Moreover,
an ultrasound can add significantly to the cost of the procedure.”
Given the Medical Right's enthusiasm for mandatory ultrasounds, it’s
reasonable to ask what evidence exists for their effectiveness. As detailed
in Part 1 of this report, Medical Right groups typically rely on anecdotes
and highly qualified reports from a narrow and unscientific group of visitors
to crisis pregnancy centers. Other than that, Care Net—which runs a
network of about 750 centers in the U.S. and Canada—publishes unverified
statistics about women who go to its centers. In a 2004 report, Care Net acknowledged
that sonograms had a bigger impact than counseling alone in only 11% percent
of women. Care Net also noted that the number of women deciding against abortion
after seeing an ultrasound image of their fetus declined by 7% over one year
Net concluded that it was too soon to know whether the drop was due to
a “more accurate read on how ultrasound affects women” or an actual
decrease in women being influenced by ultrasound images.
Lack of evidence has not stopped the Medical Right from charging forward with
a barrage of laws and proposals mandating ultrasound for women considering
abortion. Laws are on the books or under consideration in 27 states. The bills
are invariably described by supporters as “informed consent” for
abortion patients, although no other medical procedures are subjected to mandated
pre-surgical medical tests and commentary.
The current rage for ultrasound laws may have been spurred by Justice Anthony
Kennedy’s comments in the April 2007 U.S. Supreme Court decision of
Gonzales v. Carhart, which upheld a federal ban on certain abortion
procedures without an exception to protect a woman’s health. Justice
Kennedy, the author of the opinion, also suggested on his own that women may
be lacking in information prior to an abortion procedure and may later regret
their decision. According to policy analysts at The Guttmacher Institute,
his commentary could be viewed as an
invitation to anti-abortion advocates to rush forward with rafts of mandated
information for abortion patients.
South Dakota’s legislature is the latest to embrace ultrasound, passing
ultrasound-for-abortion requirements and sending them to the governor to sign
on February 25, 2008. At a hearing on January 23, 2008, South Dakota
State Senator Dennis Schmidt introduced the legislation (SB 88) by talking
about an ultrasound performed when a complication arose with his wife’s
hip surgery. “It took a lot of fear out of my heart … It’s
comforting, it’s great to have it,” said Schmidt. The legislation,
of course, does not require hip surgeons or emergency room doctors or even
an obstetrician performing other reproductive services to show patients an
ultrasound: it only applies to doctors performing abortions.
Dakota legislation requires that an abortion facility must offer a pregnant
woman “an opportunity to view a sonogram” of her “unborn
child” prior to performing an abortion. The facility must record whether
the woman chooses to view the sonogram and the woman must sign a form “attesting
to her informed decision.” This information must be sent to the state
department of health, although the woman’s identifying information is
The South Dakota State Medical Association opposed the ultrasound legislation
as interfering with the doctor-patient relationship. “The issues and
those discussions belong between a patient and a doctor,” said Dr. Mary
Carpenter, a spokesperson.
Caitlin Collier, a lobbyist for the South Dakota Advocacy Network for Women,
was more forthright in opposing the legislation. “I do not believe the
women of South Dakota of childbearing age … are stupid,” she said.
“It is suggested that they are too stupid to have figured out what it
is that they are doing when they go to request an abortion … it is insulting
to women to suggest that they are incapable of making their own medical decisions
without state government intervening.” The legislation does not exempt
women who are survivors of rape or incest from the ultrasound requirements,
nor does it make an exception when a fetal anomaly exists. Collier called
these omissions “cruel and callous.”
A full complement
of Medical Right organizations supported the legislation in South Dakota—the
state chapters of The National Right to Life Committee, Concerned Women for
America, Eagle Forum and South Dakota Family Policy Council, affiliated with
the Family Research Council in Washington, D.C. A lobbyist for the Catholic
Diocese who testified in support of the legislation brought in utero ultrasound
images from his own wife’s wanted pregnancy. “This is something
we can see with our eyes. A picture does speak a thousand words,” he
said, a common refrain among those eager for ultrasound legislation.
Of the 13 states that have laws on the books about ultrasound and abortion,
the requirements vary, according to information gathered by The Guttmacher
As of February 1, 2008, three states—Alabama, Louisiana and Mississippi—had
laws requiring an abortion provider to conduct an ultrasound and offer the
woman an opportunity to see it, and South Dakota’s law, once signed,
will make a fourth state to follow this course. In Mississippi, the physician
must record the fetal heartbeat and offer the woman an opportunity to hear
the recording, a type of ultrasound that is especially expensive. Four other
states—Florida, Missouri, Virginia and West Virginia—are considering
or have considered similar legislation. Two states—Arizona and Florida—
require an ultrasound after the first trimester and mandate that the woman
be given “an opportunity” to view it.
Four states–Arkansas, Georgia, Idaho and Michigan—have laws that
require a woman to be offered the opportunity to see the sonogram images if
the abortion provider has conducted an ultrasound. Similar legislation is
pending in four other states—Kansas, Ohio, South Carolina and Tennessee.
Six states—Georgia, Indiana, Michigan, Oklahoma, Utah and Wisconsin—require
abortion providers to give patients information on accessing ultrasound services.
But an additional three states—Kentucky, North Carolina and Oklahoma—have
legislation pending that not only requires the ultrasound, but requires that
an explanation be given to the woman about it, although the woman is granted
the authority to “avert” her eyes, in the language of the Kentucky
Other versions of ultrasound proposals would require an abortion provider
to offer an ultrasound (Maryland, Missouri, Georgia); offer an ultrasound
and require the state to pay for it if the woman cannot (Kansas); offer the
ultrasound and provide a list of organizations that provide them (Colorado);
receive a list of organizations that provide ultrasound (New Jersey); and
encourage the woman to get an ultrasound and require facilitation (New York).
Legislation was introduced in some states, but not passed, that would require
a woman to look at the ultrasound before having an abortion. Georgia and South
Carolina introduced legislation of this sort. In South Carolina, bill sponsors
told the Charlotte Observer that their
proposals were driven by religious and anti-abortion convictions.
In a hearing in which a Colorado legislative committee rejected an ultrasound
Senator Chris Romer chastised the supporters who proclaimed that the legislation
would help women make better decisions. After the Colorado sponsor said ultrasound
requirements would make abortion “safe, legal and rare,” and a
representative of the Colorado Catholic Conference said it was a way of “giving
women true choice of whether to proceed with an abortion,” Romer suggested
it was time to quit the “kabuki dance” of abortion regulation.
“It puts a burden on certain people—and it’s not the right
way to go,” he said.
Cynthia L. Cooper
March 10, 2008
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