Ultrasound abortion law serves agenda, not women

By Gabrielle Rosas

As a young woman, I understand the fear of having a child too early in life. I’m not yet prepared to give up my life in order to raise another. College, jobs, friends, family and my future financial security trump any minute desire to have babies. And trust me, it’s minute.

Thankfully, I’ve never had a pregnancy scare with ex-boyfriends nor have any of my close friends. But we all talk about it in hypothetical terms. “What would you do if you got pregnant?” Each woman makes her own choice when she asks herself that question. It is an emotional and difficult choice. But now, with the dissolution of an injunction, Texas women seeking an abortion may find making that decision even more difficult.

An appeals court in the Lone Star state overruled a federal judge’s decision that a 2011 law, which requires pregnant women to listen to a description of the ultrasound image before having an abortion, infringes on abortion providers’ rights to free speech.

The woman can decline to hear the fetal heartbeat or see the ultrasound images only in cases of rape, incest or fetal abnormality.

Everything about this law makes no sense. Exactly what is this law supposed to do? As far as I can tell, it is simply part of a conservative agenda. The argument is that the requirement will help women make an “informed” decision. Informed about what, I’m not sure. The law states that doctors should give “a verbal explanation of the results of the sonogram images, including a medical description of the dimensions of the embryo or fetus, the presence of cardiac activity, and the presence of external members and internal organs.”

What new light is this shedding for the patient? Ultrasounds have been a standard procedure for years, according to Planned Parenthood in a statement on its website. A pregnant woman is perfectly aware that she is carrying a living being inside of her, regardless of small details such as the heartbeat or size of the fetus. Describing the baby is simply rubbing salt into an open wound.

This new procedure is medically irrelevant and has no place in a doctor’s exam room. If a woman wants to see an image of the baby before the operation, then the doctor should afford her that. The physician also has an obligation to answer any questions a patient might have about the baby or the operation. Showing a woman her unborn child isn’t really meant to inform but to sway.

When emotions come into play, a calm, rational decision becomes very difficult to make. Not only that, but some doctors don’t want to be a mouthpiece for the ideological agenda of conservatives and for good reason. Doctors have rights and should not have to go against their ideals to do their jobs.

Several states have enacted similar laws. In October 2011, Florida governor Rick Scott signed a bill requiring an ultrasound procedure before an abortion, according to a Jan. 1 report from the Guttmacher Institute. The Florida bill also requires that abortion providers offer a view of the image to the woman. But only Texas requires a description of the sonogram image. My favorite Texan Rick Perry signed it last year and praised the unblocking of the law as a “victory” for the state.

As much as the bill’s supporters would like to believe it, pre-abortion ultrasounds rarely change minds. A 2009 study published by the European Journal of Contraception showed that, when given the option, 72 percent of women chose to view the ultrasound image. A whopping 86 percent felt positively about viewing the image, but not one changed her mind about proceeding with the abortion.

The journal’s study is one of very few, a bad sign for the future of women’s choice. States passing laws based on ideology instead of fact is enough incentive for the government to fund a study measuring the outcome of the procedure.

I agree with Texas on one thing: Women should be more informed about abortions, but not in a way that sacrifices individual beliefs. Women and men alike should be protesting the unblocking of the law and pushing it to the U.S. Supreme Court. Only the woman can truly understand her situation. If she believes an abortion is the best answer, most likely, she is right.

State officials should not judge whether a woman should have a child. The unethical nature of the bill’s requirements is enough reason for any citizen to question how this will affect the future of American families.