Thursday, October 7, 2010

Mandatory Ultrasound Legislation: The Latest Threat to Reproductive Rights

One of the more recent threats to reproductive rights in the United States is the introduction of mandatory ultrasound laws. The new legislation proposals come under the guise of “informed consent.” Designed to protect patients by giving them accurate information to make decisions about their medical care, informed consent is an important patient protection.

However, some of the new laws require that a woman be required to undergo an ultrasound prior to the abortion and then stipulate how that information is to be used to deter a woman from choosing abortion. The woman must submit to this procedure regardless of her disapproval and disregards medical opinion on the necessity of such testing.

In Louisiana, the “Ultrasound Before Abortion Act” will require that women be offered the opportunity to see the ultrasound image, then hear a description of the image, and receive a print out of the ultrasound. There are no exceptions for victims of rape or incest. While the woman will not be required to accept the photograph from the provider, this does add an extra hurdle that is intentionally insensitive to women who go in for an abortion.

Nonprofit organizations have formed over the last decade to spread the use of ultrasound. According to the Project Ultrasound website, this non-profit group was formed “for the purpose of raising awareness about the effectiveness of ultrasound machines in deterring abortions”. They join with other organizations (such as Focus On the Family’s “Option Ultrasound”) to raise funds to donate ultrasound machines to crisis pregnancy centers across the country.

The use of ultrasound in these campaigns is not a new trend. Anti-choice extremist Dr. Bernard Nathanson, known for his narrating role in “The Silent Scream”, describes ultrasound in the film as the technology to see abortion from the “victim[‘]s vantage point”. The film was hailed by former President Ronald Reagan, distributed to members of Congress, shown on television news, and even the text was read into the Congressional Record.

Despite Planned Parenthood Federation of America efforts to point out the film’s medical inaccuracies and biases, the panel of medical professionals has been largely ignored.

Women who choose abortion understand the complexities involved in making their decision. We must guard against patronizing, intrusive tests that assume women are not well informed and are incapable of making hard decisions.

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