A new study debunks the pro-life argument that women tend to decide against their choice to have an abortion once they view an ultrasound of the fetus. It found that almost all women studied still went ahead with the procedure.
Published in this month’s Obstetrics and Gynecology journal, the study’s authors analyzed the results of 15,575 visits by women to a Los Angeles abortion clinic. When offered to look at the ultrasound image, 42.5 percent agreed, and of those, 98.4 percent went ahead with the planned abortion. The 1.6 percent who chose to continue their pregnancies had walked in to the clinic unsure about their choice to have an abortion.
"I think the study is another affirmation of what we already know: a woman deciding to end her pregnancy has thought about it," said Nicole Safar, public policy director for Planned Parenthood of Wisconsin. "She has taken all the information available to her to make the best decision for her and her family."
Slate assistant editor Katy Waldman wrote in a column about the study that women may decide to terminate or continue a pregnancy based on a range of factors, and that no one reason can be privileged over another.
"I do trust that unsure women who voluntarily look at ultrasounds and then decide against abortion are acting as rationally as the ones who decide to go through with it. We all make choices along a variety of axes: the financial axis; the relationship-status axis; the personal goals and dreams axis; the ethical axis; and, yes, the emotional axis," Waldman wrote.
"Expecting women to ignore any one scrap of data (as if they are not capable of weighing it, carefully, alongside the others) is underestimating women."
Twenty-two states have some kind of provision on the books concerning ultrasound viewing for women seeking to terminate their pregnancies, according to the Guttmacher Institute. Of these, three require doctors to show women an ultrasound image (Texas, Wisconsin, and Louisiana), and seven require the doctor to perform the ultrasound, and give women the option of viewing it. In November, the Supreme Court struck down Oklahoma’s attempt to reinstate the requirement.