Abortion, Ultrasound, and the Law



December 29, 2014

Month 7

It might seem uncontroversial that patients need complete information in order to make an informed decision regarding invasive medical procedures. Except, of course, for abortion, which always has a strong ideological overlay.

This is especially true amid recent attempts to mandate that women have an ultrasound before pregnancy termination. A pre-procedure ultrasound confirms the location of the fetus within the uterus – this prevents performing abortion in cases of tubal pregnancy or false pregnancy. Ohio law goes further, and specifies that “the abortionist must provide the woman an opportunity to view the active ultrasound image of the fetus or embryo.” The law has not been successfully challenged. Such common-sense provisions would seem to give women the most information possible before making a critical decision that will affect them for months and years to come.

However, a recent U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals decision upheld striking down a North Carolina law. which requires doctors “to perform an ultrasound, display the sonogram and describe the fetus to women seeking abortions.” The issue here is one of free speech, where physicians are forced by law to give certain instructions, a requirement which opponents claim has the intended ideological goal of restricting abortion.

Should the right to free speech trump the right to life of the unborn? Stay tuned; this will likely go to the U.S. Supreme Court in 2015.

Ohio Ultrasound Law

Reuters News Article

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