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Counterpoint: Ultrasound law empowers women


Anthony J. Lauinger August 19th, 2010

Knowledge is power. An ultrasound provides knowledge.

Most of Oklahoma's approximately 6,000 annual abortions are performed in the area of Central Oklahoma served by the Oklahoma Gazette. Thus, it's greatly disappointing that an Oklahoma County district judge has blocked enforcement of an important state law that provides much-needed information to pregnant women considering abortion.

The "Ultrasound Law" requires abortion providers to perform ultrasounds beforehand, explain the ultrasound images as part of the informed-consent process and position the screen where the mother may view it if she wishes (she is not required to do so).

Misunderstandings about the law and standard medical practice within the abortion industry are apparent from statements opposing the legislation. A recent example from a release by Planned Parenthood: "The measure requires a woman to undergo an unnecessary medical procedure. For most women, they will be forced to endure the insertion of a vaginal transducer " essentially rape by instrument."  

On April 27, Nova Health Systems (Reproductive Services) and Dr. Larry Burns " which represent two of the three abortion providers in the state " challenged the law. Their petition acknowledges these facts: Reproductive Services always includes an ultrasound in the pre-abortion examination; both providers routinely use transabdominal and transvaginal ultrasound to date a pregnancy; and choosing which method of ultrasound to use is based on clinical judgment and the gestational age of the pregnancy.

It's a major distortion to describe the ultrasound method used early in pregnancy as an invasive assault on the mother. A 2003 survey of abortion providers, titled "Early abortion services in the United States: a provider survey," found that vaginal ultrasounds were always performed before early surgical abortions at 83 percent of the abortion facilities surveyed and sometimes at 16 percent of the sites. It also found that vaginal ultrasounds were always used 92 percent of the time before early medical abortions.

The issue is simply whether the ultrasound screen will be turned at an angle where the mother may view it if she wishes, and whether the images will be explained during the informed-consent process. Since abortion practice is usually hurried and impersonal, and the physician-patient relationship virtually nonexistent, the state is justified in requiring that certain information be provided the woman to enable her to make a truly informed decision.

Abortion informed-consent jurisprudence is currently controlled by the 1992 Supreme Court ruling Planned Parenthood v. Casey. The U.S. Supreme Court plurality opinion stated: "In attempting to ensure that a woman apprehend the full consequences of her decision, the State furthers the legitimate purpose of reducing the risk that a woman may elect an abortion, only to discover later, with devastating psychological consequences, that her decision was not fully informed."

Knowledge is power. An ultrasound provides knowledge. Whatever decision the woman makes, she will have done so with her eyes wide open.

The abortion industry has a financial interest in hiding from women the facts about the unborn child. It's in a woman's interest to know the truth. Ignorance isn't bliss where life-or-death matters are concerned. And ignorance isn't forever. Someday, she'll see an ultrasound " in a magazine, on television, on a friend's refrigerator. Better to see it before undertaking an irrevocable, lethal act rather than after, when she would be powerless to relieve the emotional and psychological anguish that abortion often spawns.   

Lauinger is state chairman of Oklahomans For Life, affiliate of National Right to Life.
 
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