Abortion advocates in Virginia have come under heavy criticism for equating the ultrasound legislation there would allow women to see before an abortion to rape. Yet, while abortion backers say having an ultrasound is like getting raped, a 2003 study shows 99% of Planned Parenthood abortion facilities do them beforehand.
Published in the medical journal Contraception in 2003, researchers with the pro-abortion group IPAS, the University of North Carolina, a consortium of Planned Parenthood clinics and the National Abortion Federation surveyed staff at 113 Planned Parenthood affiliates and independent abortion businesses between February and April 2000.
The study specifically concerned the use of the dangerous abortion drug RU 486 (mifepristone) and the survey indicated the drug could be given to women at Planned Parenthood centers and abortion clinics because of vaginal ultrasounds.
Surveying 72 of the abortion businesses that sold the abortion pill to women, the researchers found abortion facilities frequently use vaginal ultrasounds before an abortion to determine the gestational age of the baby or afterwards to determine if the abortion was complete. In fact 99 percent of the abortion facilities surveyed always or sometimes performed an ultrasound in association with the surgical abortion — while just one percent did not.
“Vaginal ultrasound was always performed before the early surgical abortion at 59 (83%) sites, under certain conditions at 11 (16%) sites, and never at one (1%) site,” the study noted. “Vaginal ultrasound was always performed after early surgical abortion at 18 (26%) sites, under certain conditions at 46 (66%) sites, and never at 6 (8%) sites.”
Similar numbers were seen regarding vaginal ultrasounds before a mifepristone abortion.
“Vaginal ultrasound was very common before the medical abortion, with 37 (92%) sites reporting that they always performed it,” the study continued. “Vaginal ultrasound was always performed after early medical abortion in 35 (87%) sites, performed under certain conditions in 4 (10%) sites, and never performed in 1 (3%) site.”
UPDATE: Commentary magazine reporter Alana Goodman indicates one Planned Parenthood officials has admitted Planned Parenthood policy already requires ultrasounds before abortion procedures.
“That’s just the medical standard,” said Adrienne Schreiber, an official at Planned Parenthood’s Washington, D.C., regional office. “To confirm the gestational age of the pregnancy, before any procedure is done, you do an ultrasound.”
According to Schreiber, Planned Parenthood does require women to give signed consent for abortion procedures, including the ultrasound. But if the women won’t consent to the ultrasound, the abortion cannot take place, according to the group’s national standards.
Schreiber said there are several options at that point. If the woman is uncomfortable with a transvaginal ultrasound, which is more invasive, she can wait until the fetus is large enough to opt for a transabdominal ultrasound.
“But if she’s uncomfortable with a transvaginal ultrasound, then she’s not going to be comfortable with an equally invasive abortion procedure,” Schreiber told me.
Getting back to the 2003 study, the report’s authors also noted that the frequency of the use of vaginal ultrasounds before abortion is not limited to the abortion centers surveyed, but common practice in the abortion industry.
“Almost all sites offering early medical abortion always performed a vaginal ultrasound before and after the abortion, consistent with common practice in the US,” the study said.
The study also indicated some abortion centers will not actually perform an abortion without first performing a vaginal ultrasound.
“If there is a positive pregnancy test but no gestational sac visible on the vaginal ultrasound, only 15 (22%) of the sites will perform a surgical abortion. If no gestational tissue is seen in the tissue examination, 55 (76%) of the sites usually follow with serum -hCG, 46 (64%) usually send for pathological examination, 26 (36%) usually repeat the aspiration and 53 (74%) usually perform a vaginal ultrasound,” it said.
Moreover, the study indicated abortion facility staff cited a need for more staff trained in performing vaginal ultrasounds so the RU 486 abortion drug could be used at a higher frequency.
The study said, “Respondents were asked whether or not their site had experienced each of 13 obstacles to initiating early surgical abortion services (listed in Fig. 2). The majority of sites [50 (69%)] reported one or more major obstacles to start-up of early surgical services. Among these sites, the three obstacles most often cited were the challenges of providing additional staff training in the areas of vaginal ultrasound [27 (38%)]…. Table 4 describes the sites’ current experience of providing early surgical abortion services. Fewer than half of the sites [31 (43%)] reported experiencing one or more major obstacles to current service provision. The three most commonly named obstacles were providing additional staff training in vaginal ultrasound techniques [14 (19%)].”
If Planned Parenthood and abortion advocates truly believe giving women an ultrasound is similar to rape, they should be up front about the fact that women are “raped” before virtually every abortion performed in the United States. The real question is whether women will be allowed to see an ultrasound, not whether they will be required to have one — Planned Parenthood and independent abortion facilities already essentially require it.