Attacks on Ultrasound are Attacks on Women’s Health
Christian author Rebecca Todd Peters released a book this year entitled Trust Women: A Progressive Christian Argument for Reproductive Justice. In the book, she argues that abortion is a moral, ethical solution to a problem pregnancy. She supports legal abortion up until birth.
Although some of the things Peters says about poverty and abortion rates is spot on, the book is filled with inaccuracies. This blog post is the first of a series, in which I’m going to debunk many of her claims.
Peters is very much against pro-life laws requiring doctors to tell women facts about fetal development and abortion’s risks. But what really bothers her are laws requiring abortion facilities to perform sonograms. In some states, informed consent or “Women’s Right to Know” laws require the abortionist to do an ultrasound and offer the woman a chance to see it. Peters argues that this is a violation of women’s rights. She quotes pro–abortion writer Rick Ungar claiming:
An ultrasound…is not standard practice for determining gestational age. This use of ultrasonography is at odds with the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, which is stated that ultrasonography should only be performed when there is a valid medical indication.
He does not cite any source to back up his claim that the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists opposes pre-abortion ultrasounds. The claim is wild and inaccurate. Ultrasounds are standard practice in abortion facilities. They make abortion safer.
A major textbook on abortion clearly says this. Dr. Warren Hern is a late-term abortionist who is been in practice for many decades. He wrote the abortion training manual Abortion Practice. The book is intended to train future abortionists. On page 70, Hern says:
Sonographic examination [before abortions] is invaluable for a variety of reasons. Aside from more accurate assessment of fetal age than other methods, it provides information concerning fetal presentation, placental location, multiple gestations, and such unexpected conditions as hydatidiform mole, myomas, uterine structural abnormalities, and extrauterine lesions (e.g. ovarian cysts). Many of these data can affect clinical management in important ways.
While ultrasound is not perfect, it appears to be considerably more accurate for determining fetal age than are menstrual dates and even a careful examination by an experienced physician.
A major study also shows that the majority of abortion centers use ultrasound. According to a study in the medical journal Contraception, 99% of Planned Parenthood facilities perform ultrasounds before abortion – regardless of the law.
What is so onerous, then, about ultrasounds? If abortion facilities already do them anyway, why do they oppose these laws so strenuously? The simple answer is that they don’t want to show the ultrasound to the woman, out of fear that she will change her mind.
For the Supreme Court case Whole Woman’s Health v. Hellerstedt, an affidavit was submitted highlighting the stories of 3,348 women who had abortions. All of these women were harmed emotionally or physically by their abortions, and many of them wrote about abortion clinic workers who lied or withheld information. Several wrote about how abortion workers refused to show them the ultrasound. One woman said:
They [abortion workers] don’t go into specific detail. I think that would scare you and you would back out. I also was not allowed to see the screen during the ultrasound and they did not share the results with me. The pain I endured from the time the dilation began and then through the actual procedure was alarming and VERY unexpected.
I was not informed of the procedure, what it really involved and I wanted to see a sonogram and was refused. I was told I would bleed like a period but it was much, much more than that, I experienced a lot of cramping and was very depressed afterwards.
Another woman wrote in an online magazine that she was denied a chance to see an ultrasound:
The day of the abortion I showed up uneasily to the clinic. My boyfriend was there and waited in the waiting room. I went back when I was called into the ultrasound room. The technician started my ultrasound to find out how far along I was. It was January 7, 2006. The worst day of my life. I was seven weeks pregnant. I was experiencing morning sickness. I would later find out my baby had fingers toes a face and a heartbeat. That day I asked through tears to see the ultrasound. I was told no by the technician. I was told the only purpose was to date my pregnancy. I wasn’t allowed to see it. I asked through tears if the baby looked ok, or had a heartbeat. The technician told me she wasn’t allowed to disclose information like that.
Former abortion workers and abortionists have also admitted that they hid ultrasound screens from women. Dr. Joseph Randall, a former abortionist who is now pro-life, says: “They [the women] are never allowed to look at the ultrasound because we knew that if they so much as heard the heartbeat, they wouldn’t want to have an abortion.”
Another abortion worker, when asked about ultrasounds, said: “We didn’t show it to them. The idea was to keep their anxiety at a lower level.”
A woman denied a chance to see an ultrasound, who is not informed about the development of her baby, can suffer severe emotional trauma when she finds out the truth. One teenager who was not given accurate information at an abortion facility was horrified when she learned how developed her baby was:
In my junior year health class I found out that my baby had developed to the point of looking like a person with arms, legs, and a head. And she could feel pain. That knowledge will haunt me for the rest of my life… I would trade every success and milestone in my life to have her back.
Another woman, who regretted her abortion, says that she would not have aborted had she known the truth:
I know that my “story” would have ended differently had there been a pregnancy center to go to … I know that I would’ve chosen life for my baby had I seen a sonogram, heard a heartbeat, and had more facts.
Fortunately, crisis pregnancy centers are there for some women. Much-maligned by pro-abortion activists and abortion workers, these centers show women their ultrasounds and tell them the truth.
One woman spoke out about her experience at a crisis pregnancy center:
I went to the sonogram appointment at Burleson Pregnancy Aid Center even though I had already been to Planned Parenthood and thought that abortion was right for me. But when I looked at the sonogram screen, I knew that I had been lied to. What I saw on the screen was not a “piece of tissue” like Planned Parenthood had told me. The tiny flicker of light, a heartbeat, was my child. I was instantly in love.
I would have been lost without the guidance of the Pregnancy Aid Center. Through their programs I learned how to care for my infant daughter. I would not be the person I am today if it hadn’t been for the caring people of the Burleson Pregnancy Aid Center and the experiences I’ve had there. Without them, my daughter would not be alive and I cannot imagine my life without her.
The reason groups like Planned Parenthood rally their pro-choice supporters to fight ultrasound laws is not because ultrasounds are invasive or unnecessary, despite what they tell their followers. Rather, it is because they do not want women to know how developed their babies are. This would lead to fewer women choosing abortion, which would be disastrous for them.
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