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When Ultrasounds Are Used for No Good

I’ve thought about ultrasounds a lot throughout my pregnancy. I had my first one at five weeks. The doctor showed me a tiny black circle inside a larger white circle and said it was my baby. At eight weeks, the black and white image morphed into a head and body. I cried when I heard the heartbeat. By 10 weeks, I could see a head, two hands, and two feet. At 12 weeks, I was sent for a special 4D screening. There, I could see a video of the fetus’ whole body squirming around. I could even see it sucking its thumb. And, at the end, I was given the option of taking home a DVD to share with friends and family.

The point of that screening was to determine if there were any major medical problems with the baby, the unsaid point being that it would still be early enough to terminate the pregnancy.

I’ve always been fervently pro-choice. I was dragged to rallies Washington, D.C. before I even understood how babies were made. But here I was confronted with images of my own fetus — my baby! — and I started to wonder if I would ever have been able to go through with an abortion, after all.

So, I was gripped by the news last week that a particular Oklahoma law — one that would have required women seeking abortions to first view an ultrasound before going through the procedure — had been struck down. The law mandated that the doctor or clinician performing the abortion must make the ultrasound monitor visible and point out the fingers, toes, and heartbeat of the fetus in question. The woman isn’t required to look — she could avert her eyes — but after the screening she must sign a consent form saying that the ultrasound and script had been followed.

The law was struck down — not because it treats women as children — but rather because it bundled together a bunch of different abortion laws and therefore violated a clause in the state constitution requiring that bills deal with only one subject.

The bill’s sponsor, State Senator Todd Lamb, a Republican, gave this explanation:

It’s hard to argue that a woman shouldn’t be as informed as possible before making such a life-altering decision as having an abortion. The problem here — regardless of your feelings on abortion — is the assumption that women are making these decisions on a whim without considering the implications. That if she just had a calm doctor step in and explain what she was doing, then the woman would suddenly decide that she could raise that baby.

My own pregnancy and the complex feelings about abortion that emerged from it, rather than turn me anti-choice — mom, I promise I’m not! — made me even angrier with anti-abortion crusaders who taunt women outside abortion clinics. The decision of having an abortion isn’t one that any woman can take lightly. And, as Anita Fream, the head of Planned Parenthood of Central Oklahoma said, forcing a woman who has already made a painful decision to have an abortion then sit down, watch an ultrasound and have a technician point out the details of the fetus, “It almost reaches the stage of seeming cruel to me.”

I’d say!

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