Ultrasound Laws Protect Women’s Health, Stop Abortions, Provide Window to the Womb

National   |   Steven Ertelt   |   Jun 23, 2010   |   9:00AM   |   WASHINGTON, DC

Ultrasound Laws Protect Women’s Health, Stop Abortions, Provide Window to the Womb

by Mailee Smith
June 23, 2010

LifeNews.com Note: Mailee Smith is an attorney for Americans United for Life, a pro-life legal group that focuses on national and state legislative matters. This opinion column is a response to Stopping Abortion: A Different Take on Legislation Promoting Ultrasounds, written by pro-life NIFLA attorney Tom Glessner.

State ultrasound laws are critical tools in ensuring that women are protected from the harms inherent in abortion. Additionally, research and real-life experience have shown that a woman who undergoes and views an ultrasound before an abortion is less likely to follow through with the abortion.

In recent years, pro-life advocates have enjoyed tremendous success at the state level in facilitating and encouraging the adoption of ultrasound requirements. Nineteen states have already enacted ultrasound requirements, and nearly a dozen states have considered ultrasound-related measures in 2010.

However, as with any important policy initiative, there continues to be debate within the pro-life movement as to the best approach for making ultrasounds available to women before abortion. Importantly, there are more areas of agreement than disagreement.

First and foremost, pro-life advocates agree that ultrasounds perform an important protective function—both in terms of women’s medical safety and in ensuring that they are fully informed as to the consequences and impact of their abortion decisions.

Notably, over the last several years, a pre-abortion ultrasound has become the undisputed "gold standard" of abortion "care." Many—if not most—abortionists admit to using ultrasounds prior to abortions (regardless of estimated gestational age). While at one time, an ultrasound was not used regularly in the first trimester—when 90 percent of abortions occur—more and more abortionists are utilizing the technology to ensure "safe" abortions and avoid potentially devastating complications.

Ultrasound requirements are necessary in order to check for ectopic pregnancies, ensure a viable pregnancy, estimate gestational age, and better protect women from the physical harms inherent in surgical and chemical abortions.

In addition to safeguarding women’s health and safety, this standard of practice also opens the door to more stringent and meaningful regulation of abortion. If the use of an ultrasound is the "gold standard" of "care" among abortionists, then it is much easier for states to pass laws requiring its use and avoid costly and unnecessary constitutional challenges.

Since 2006, AUL has made model ultrasound legislation available to state legislators and pro-life and pro-family policy groups and has been directly involved in legislative debates over ultrasound requirements across the nation. And our extensive involvement with this issue continues to bear "fruit" and provide insight as to how we can effectively strengthen the protection and value of state ultrasound laws. For example, we are currently updating our ultrasound model to mandate that an ultrasound be performed prior to an abortion, better protecting the lives and health of women considering abortion.

As in our earlier model, the new language will, as an alternative to actually performing the ultrasound, give abortionists the option of providing women with a list of facilities and agencies that provide ultrasound services free of charge. This opens the door for a woman to receive the mandatory ultrasound at a pregnancy resource center—a facility where a woman will hear truthful information about her developing child and receive the counseling she needs to make a truly informed "choice."

It will also empower women by allowing them to choose whether or not they want to see the images or hear the anatomical descriptions of their unborn children.

An important component of AUL’s model is that a state affirmatively provide a medical standard of care for the provision of pre-abortion ultrasounds, requiring abortionists to accurately portray and describe (if the woman so wishes) the features of the unborn child. Such a standard ensures that women receive an accurate image and explanation, leaving abortionists little room to point to random splotches on an ultrasound screen and label them "fetal tissue."

Notably, Michigan Senator Wayne Kuipers recently introduced a bill in that state (SB 1283) requiring abortionists to utilize the best technology available to them in providing ultrasound services. This type of law ensures not only that the mother sees the best image possible of her unborn child, but that it protects her health and welfare as well.

Ultrasound technology truly does provide a window to the womb. Women who see their unborn children are much less likely to choose to abort. It is now up to the states to enact ultrasound laws that protect women and provide them with the best possible chance at seeing their precious children.

AUL’s updated ultrasound model will be available before the 2011 state legislative sessions convene. In the meantime, our current model is available at www.AUL.org.


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