Eleven states are considering bills that would make ultrasounds mandatory for women seeking abortions.
So instead of spending money on the development and distribution of contraception, on education, and on the support of women who choose to go through with unplanned pregnancies, someone is going to be spending money on ultrasounds. Ultrasound is a technology capable of great good: monitoring pregnancy, treating cancer, and helping to dissolve scar tissue. The technicians and doctors who would be involved in this mandatory imaging are probably interested in knowing exactly why their services will be required for women who didn’t ask for it.
Here’s Senator Tony Fulton, Republican of Nebraska: "If we can provide information to a mother who is in a desperate situation – information about what she’s about to choose; information about the reality inside her womb – then this is going to reduce the number of abortions," Fulton said.
I think we can be pretty sure that a woman about to have an abortion is aware of what’s inside her womb. And in case she’s not, the doctors who counsel her before the abortion are perfectly capable of telling her. By adding another step, Fulton and the other lawmakers championing these bills are implying that they have some insight to offer in the medical process.
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By requiring that a woman go through an additional medical procedure solely for the purpose of telling her what she already knows – that she’s pregnant – these bills are wasteful and offensive to medical providers.
I wonder what Douglas Kmiec and other “Common Ground” voices would say about this. Is this bill a step toward “addressing teenage pregnancy and the circumstances that promote the tragic moral choice of the taking of unborn life”? This bill hits women in the doctor’s office, after they’ve already decided to have an abortion. They have taken stock of their lives, their social, emotional, and economic “circumstances,” and they’ve decided that abortion is the best option for them. Having an ultrasound and hearing a description of the fetus does not change these circumstances. It does nothing to make the pregnancy easier to bear and it certainly does nothing to make contraception more accessible to this woman in the future.
The legislators behind these bills are arrogant in assuming they have something to say to a woman about her “womb.” There’s no doubt that, as a woman, it’s hard to predict how you’ll feel after an abortion. But an image of the fetus sheds no light on the decision and adds nothing to the emotional process. On the other hand, having a cadre of politicians take this image by force does add something to the experience: the sense of having been intimidated, assumed stupid, and even violated.