Friday, January 24, 2014

143.6 - Outrage of the Week: Forced ultrasounds not only intrusive and burdensome, but useless

Outrage of the Week: Forced ultrasounds not only intrusive and burdensome, but useless

Now for one of our regular features, it's the Outrage of the Week.

You know - or you damn well should know - that access to legal abortion is being systematically strangled in the US. In fact, in 2011 and 2012 states passed a total of 135 laws restricting access, more than the 10 years preceding.

Among those laws in several states are ones that require forced ultrasounds before women can access abortion care. The lawmakers behind the bills are open enough about it; they hope the ultrasound will make the woman change her mind about the procedure. Which means, to put it another way, they figure that women are too stupid to understand what being pregnant means.

Beyond that, there are what Tracy Weitz, Director of the Advancing New Standards in Reproductive Health program at the University of California, San Francisco, described as the highly specific and intentionally punitive provisions of forced ultrasound laws, laws which can present a real burden to women seeking abortions.

For one thing, ultrasounds are usually done by a technician. Requiring, as these laws often do, they be done by a physician, in fact the same physician who would perform the abortion, not only contradicts medical best practice, it drives up the cost, putting it out of reach for lower-income women. The requirements also by their nature intrude into the course of health care as determined by the patient and her doctor. (Whatever happened to the right-wing blather about not having the government between you and your doctor? Oh, sorry, I forgot: That only applies when it's something about getting you health care, not interfering with it.)

These laws are an outrage. But they have been all along. So why are they the Outrage of the Week?

Because according to a comprehensive new study published in the journal Obstetrics & Gynecology, the overwhelming majority of women who seek an abortion do not change their minds after receiving and viewing a sonogram, which is the image produced by an ultrasound.

Researchers reviewed over 15,000 visits to a provider where women were given the option to view their ultrasound image before going forward with an abortion. A majority chose not to look, which only serves to point up the intrusive and manipulative nature of the laws. However and more to the point, something over 40% of the women did choose to view the sonogram. Among those women, 98.4 percent still went forward with the abortion, a figure virtually identical to the percentage of women who did not view the ultrasound who went forward with the procedure. Put another way, among those women who did not view the sonogram, one percent changed their minds about having the abortion. Among those who did view their sonogram, 1.6 percent did.

And, it turns out, those women who changed their minds after viewing the sonogram were among those who had expressed mixed feelings about getting an abortion from the start, those who had the least confidence in their choice. Among those women who expressed confidence in their decision, zero percent, not one, changed her mind after viewing the sonogram.

In other words, ultrasounds have essentially zero impact on a woman's decision to proceed with an abortion. These laws have all the intrusiveness, all the burdens, all the unnecessary expense, all the sexist condescension about a woman's ability to make her own health care choices; they are an outrage. And they don't even work the way the right wing wants them to. They are intrusive, burdensome, expensive, and sexist - and useless to their avowed purpose.

Which makes them even more outrageous. They are, let's call them, the Outragier of the Week.


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