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Window to the Womb

Ingrid Duran  |  06 June 2019

In 1992, in Planned Parenthood v. Casey 505 U.S. 833 (1992), the United States Supreme Court upheld a Pennsylvania law that contained informed consent prior to an abortion. Since then, abortion related policy focusing on a woman’s right to know has boomed.  Casey paved the way by providing that certain requirements be met prior to a woman having an abortion.  The Pennsylvania law contained a twenty-four hour reflection period, required the abortion facility to discuss the abortion procedure including risks and alternatives, and provided written information on the risks, alternatives, including local resources to help pregnant women, as well as information on the developing unborn child.

Since then, states have passed laws that required some kind of ultrasound viewing law.  These laws are designed to provide pregnant women with an opportunity to see the ultrasound of her baby.  Currently, twenty-eight states have some kind of law that provides an ultrasound prior to an abortion, and they all vary.[i]

 

The progression of these laws has changed over time.  At first, most ultrasound viewing laws fell within two categories.  Some states enacted laws offering the mother a chance to view the ultrasound if an ultrasound is performed prior to the abortion, while others required the facilities to provide an ultrasound and offer the mother the opportunity to view the picture. Around 2009-2010 the National Right to Life Committee (NRLC) modified their model bill to require abortion facilities to not only perform the ultrasound, but also must display the images and simultaneously describe the characteristics of the baby on the screen. Women were free to avert their eyes if they did not want to look. 

The reason why NRLC took on this bold, new approach was that according to a study in the Contraception Journal by Janie Benson, et al., which surveyed abortion facilities, found that ultrasounds were performed 99% of the time in order to date the pregnancy and select which abortion procedure would be used.[ii]  Oklahoma was the first state to pass the law.  Currently, six states have passed the must display laws: Kentucky, Louisiana, North Carolina, Oklahoma, Texas and Wisconsin.  It is in effect in three out of the six states: Louisiana, Texas, and Wisconsin.   

In 2012, the Virginia Legislature introduced a must display law and the pro-abortion camp lost their minds.  Headlines from every biased abortion-friendly news media outlet cried that the sky was falling. There are two ways that an ultrasound can be performed, either transvaginal where the transducer is placed inside of the vagina or transabdominal where the transducer is placed on top of the woman’s stomach.  In Virginia, the original bill allowed the abortionist to select whichever method of ultrasound the abortionist and pregnant woman agreed on.  Rewire News called it “state-sanctioned rape.”[iii] Even a Virginia Delegate Herring told The New York Times it is “state-sponsored rape.”[iv] Due to the grandstanding from the other side, Virginia had to change the wording of the bill to make it clear that it is a transabdominal ultrasound.  The hypocrisy of this false argument made by the extreme abortion-on-demand side is that on various abortion clinic websites, they indicate that they perform transvaginal and transabdominal ultrasounds prior to performing abortions. 

 

 

 

 

In the Benson study mentioned above they indicated that in early surgical abortions, vaginal ultrasound is always used in 83% of abortion facilities and under certain conditions in 16% of facilities. That is, a total of 99% of all facilities surveyed used vaginal ultrasound for early surgical abortions. For chemical abortions, vaginal ultrasound is always used in 92% of abortion facilities and under certain conditions in 5% of facilities. That is, a total of 97% of all abortion facilities surveyed.

 

So why would a law that provides true informed consent to abortion-minded women bother our opponents so much?  It does not create a substantial obstacle to obtain the abortion.  It clearly passes the undue burden standard in Casey because it doesn’t prevent a woman from getting an abortion, it’s providing essential information to the mother and nearly all these facilities are already performing ultrasounds.  But keep in mind that these facilities would never purposely show the woman the ultrasound; they intentionally keep it away from her view so they can perpetuate their lies that the baby is merely a “clump of cells” and that women never regret their abortions.

The other side will outrageously claim that we are “forcing” women to look at something against their will.  Anyone is free to avert their eyes, no one is forcing anything.  Yet, how many times do we listen to the safety instructions when we board an airplane? Should we ask the airline to stop demonstrating safety instructions because they are forcing us to listen to this information?  No, that would be silly.  Just like our opponent’s argument.

Another thing to consider is the advancement of ultrasound technology went from 2D to now 3D and 4D with color. With 3D and 4D alone, it really is like a bay window to the womb.  The other side vehemently opposes these laws because these laws humanize the unborn child.  It keeps the baby in the abortion debate.  It keeps the baby visible where they would prefer to hide this fact.   This is our opponent’s weakness and our strength.

There are positive effects of ultrasound viewing laws.  These laws have the capacity to change hearts and save lives.  These laws are pro-information because women deserve the truth.  These laws empower women in order to make that choice.  And maybe that is why our opponents are opposed to these laws.  They are afraid that when armed with the truth, a woman may choose life. 

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[i] http://www.nrlc.org/uploads/stateleg/UltrasoundFactsheet.pdf

[ii] https://www.contraceptionjournal.org/article/S0010-7824(02)00512-7/pdf

[iii] https://rewire.news/article/2012/02/15/government-sanctioned-rape-in-state-virginia-and-texas/

[iv] https://www.nytimes.com/2012/02/21/us/virginia-bill-requiring-ultrasound-before-abortion-nears-vote.html

Ingrid Duran, is Director of State Legislation for the National Right to Life Committee