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Midwife: First-Trimester Ultrasounds Are Not Part of Routine Prenatal Care

Robin Marty

"First trimester ultrasounds are not part of routine prenatal care...So why are politicians now requiring this expensive procedure for a woman who plans to terminate her pregnancy?"

In the wake of the Virginia forced transvaginal ultrasound debate in Virginia, bill supporters have tried to justify their bill by stating that ultrasounds are the “gold medal standard” of pre-abortion care.  But are they? 

As one midwife explains in an article on The Clinical Advisor, unless a patient presents with an issue that would have a medical practitioner suspect an ectopic pregnancy, often they aren’t used at all.

Robyn Carlisle, MSN, CNM, WHNP, full-scope midwife at University Doctors and Kennedy University Hospital in Sewell, N.J., writes:

I recently saw a patient in the office for amenorrhea, severe left-sided pelvic pain, and a positive home pregnancy test. I ordered blood work and a stat ultrasound to rule out ectopic pregnancy. When I mentioned the ultrasound, the patient balked and confided that she was uncertain whether she wanted to continue the pregnancy.

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My patient felt that an ultrasound would just complicate an already painful decision to terminate the pregnancy. I explained to her that while I understood her apprehension, given her clinical presentation, we needed to ensure this was not a tubal pregnancy and move forward with the ultrasound.

Under normal circumstances in New Jersey, this patient would not have needed an ultrasound to confirm her pregnancy, especially if she was considering an abortion. Unfortunately, not all women have this choice.

First trimester ultrasounds are not part of routine prenatal care.  Many insurance companies will not cover first trimester ultrasound without a medical indication, such as vaginal bleeding or severe pelvic pain. So why are politicians now requiring this expensive procedure for a woman who plans to terminate her pregnancy? 

Despite what some prolife advocates may think, the decision to terminate a pregnancy is never an easy one. Prochoice does not mean pro-abortion. Prochoice means supporting a woman’s legal choices regarding pregnancy and her body. Requiring unnecessary ultrasounds add to the pain women experience when making an already difficult decision, but will most likely not change the decision once it has been made. 

Pregnant women who show signs or symptoms of ectopic pregnancies receive ultrasounds. Not every other woman does.  Why are legislators insisting that it be different for women wanting to end a pregnancy?

When legislators mandate more “care” for a woman who wants to terminate than is usually given to a woman with a wanted pregnancy, and expensive, medically unnecessary care, how can that be anything but government sanctioned coercion?

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