This post is in reference to the recent bill passed in Texas that requires all women wanting an abortion to undergo an obstetric sonogram and be given a detailed description of the various organs and body parts of the fetus they are carrying.
I am a pro-choice heterosexual male, and this bill is simply awful for a variety of reasons.
First, there is zero medical need for a sonogram for most abortion patients. While many clinics provide these services for free, the legal mandate presents another significant obstacle in the path of women who seek an abortion. This is in addition to everything else that makes an abortion difficult for a woman, such as the pain and discomfort of the medical procedure, the emotional pain involved, and even the social stigma associated with the procedure.
What this also means is that there isn’t a clear medical benefit to a sonogram for most women. This may seem a trivial point, given that I already stated that there is no medical need. The difference is subtle, and I say this because of the inherent risks associated with any type of medical procedure. The FDA website discourages the use of diagnostic ultrasound for non-medical purposes. The site goes on to say that while “there are no known risks of ultrasound imaging, it can produce effects on the body.” Fortunately, without prolonged or repeated exposure, these effects are tiny.
Therefore, in a cost-benefit analysis, we see that there is zero benefit to compulsory ultrasound, and the slight possibility of harm. Even if the probability of complications for ultrasound is less than .00001%, it is STILL a losing bet, because these risks are being taken for no potential gain. Even much more dangerous medical procedures can be more worthwhile than compulsory ultrasound because they have the potential to save the patient’s life. When you add this to the discomfort and extra time required to undergo this procedure, as well as the fact that in many first-trimester cases a vaginal ultrasound must be used as opposed to an abdominal ultrasound, there is no clear medical reason why the procedure should be mandated. In fact, there are plenty of women who carry their babies to term that don’t have an ultrasound at all.
On top of this, the bill requires the pregnant woman to listen to the heartbeat of the fetus and to hear a detailed explanation of all its bits and pieces. This is basic emotional manipulation, and does nothing but cause shame and discomfort for the woman. This bill is obviously an attempt to emotionally manipulate women into changing their minds and keeping their babies. While this decision would be fine if made on their own, this is effectively state-sanctioned coercion.
The bill finally goes on to require doctors to give women informational packets on various resources for adoption, family planning, etc. However, it requires that any organization mentioned must not even be associated with any organization that provides abortion services. This effectively sets up abortion clinics as a dirty class of medical providers, such that if you associate with them, your organization suddenly cannot be listed in this informational packet. The bill also creates a 24-hour toll free hotline that has the same restrictions on abortion-friendly organizations.
What this does is exclude a whole series of helpful and informative organizations, such as Planned Parenthood. This sets up inconsistent and incomplete information from a bill whose express purpose is to help increase the information available to pregnant women. The organizations that the bill would have these women be sent would be even more inclined to try and manipulate these women into not going through with their abortions.
Overall, this bill is quite frightening, as it uses guilt, shame, and emotional manipulation to attempt to influence people to not take advantage of their rights as citizens of the United States. It puts up barriers to women exercising these rights in a similar manner to how Jim Crow laws blocked the suffrage of black voters in the late 19th and early 20th century. This is not acceptable, and it saddens me deeply to see that this bill made it through the court system without being struck down.