The C is for Crank

Science: 1, Unnecessary, Invasive Medical Procedures, 0

By Erica C. Barnett February 6, 2012


Nineteen states have laws requiring women seeking abortions to undergo ultrasounds (including invasive internal ultrasounds, which is about as much fun as it sounds)---and, in many cases, wait 24 hours after having the ultrasound before they can get an abortion.

The idea, pushed by anti-choicers from coast to coast (US Rep. Michelle Bachmann introduced a federal mandatory sonogram bill last year), is that if women only realize what an embryo looks like, they'll choose not to go through with the abortion. In Texas, legislators went even further, requiring women to obtain a transvaginal sonogram, listen to an explanation of what the image shows (you can get out of that one if you somehow prove to your doctor that you were raped), listen to the sound of the fetal heartbeat, and then go home for 24 hours to "think about" what you're about to do.

OK, leaving aside the unbelievable condescension underlying the notion that women seeking abortions are simply unaware of what abortion or pregnancy is (not to mention adding unnecessarily to the cost of a procedure that many women can barely afford as it is), it turns out, the anti-choicers' sonogram strategy doesn't work.

Take it away, science:
Tracy Weitz, assistant professor in the Department of Obstetrics, Gynecology & Reproductive Sciences at the University of California – San Francisco, is the director of a university project called Advancing New Standards in Reproductive Health (ANSIRH). Later this year, ANSIRH will publish findings from two studies that look at how women are affected by viewing an ultrasound before an abortion.

What the researchers have found so far is that viewing an abortion is not an indication that a woman will cancel her scheduled procedure, regardless of what emotional response the sonogram elicits, Weitz told The American Independent. And that response can vary. Some women are happy to see the ultrasound because it makes their decision to abort more real, she said. Other women are sad to see the image, and still others have no emotional response. [...]

In her August 2010 presentation, Weitz said, “Women do not have abortions because they believe the fetus is not a human or because they don’t know the truth.” She pointed out that 60 percent of abortion patients have already delivered a child, that most women have abortions because of the “material conditions of their lives.”

So, in short: People are different, emotions are complicated, sonograms don't prevent abortions. Most importantly, women seeking abortions know what they're doing. Isn't it about time we started trusting them?
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