Point-Counterpoint: Is a Required Ultrasound a Step Too Far or Justifiable Legislation?


Heavy-Handed Abortion Guidelines Violate a Woman on All Levels


Usually, it is considered highly immoral to implement laws that impede a person’s path to exercise their rights. Somehow, though, the rights for a woman to decide what happens to her own body have been seriously put into question. The most recent legislative amendment to a woman’s right to choose has been the required ultrasound at least 24 hours before an abortion.

In many states, women who seek an abortion in the first three months of pregnancy are required to have an ultrasound via vaginal probe. Virginia’s new law requires the ultrasound, but they backed off the vaginal probe after public outcry. The Texas Sonogram Law, however, continues to require the probe, as do others, perhaps because the Texas law hasn’t gotten as much press coverage as the Virginia debate did.

Is this, as some claim, a form of “state-sanctioned rape?” I would say, yes—the laws force women to have a foreign object inserted into their bodies, unwanted. For this reason, I believe the connotations of the law are akin to molestation.

It would be one thing if the ultrasound was medically necessary, or if not necessary, then beneficial to the woman’s health. However, it’s not. These ultrasounds are medically worthless, with no effect on the woman’s body or her health. The act makes women feel guilty about seeking an abortion and has the potential to turn away women who are fearful of the unnecessary procedures.

State Senator Dan Patrick, who authored the Texas bill, estimates that the new legislation will stop one in five abortions, or 15,000 out of 80,000 per year. I will concede that some of those women will make the right choice, for them, to keep their child. However, it’s likely that a number of women will be deterred from seeking help in the first place, and that is something I find reprehensible.

Think about rape victims. A victim of rape who finds herself pregnant will find herself subjected to an unnecessary procedure that will most assuredly force her to relive the horrific experience of being raped. This is not a universal provision, as some states make exceptions for rape victims, but the intent remains. It’s an act that has the possibility of discouraging victims from aborting a fetus they didn’t want.

The intent of this law is the problem, though the particulars of the legislation vary between the states in which it is implemented. In some states, the woman listens to the heartbeat and sees the image of the fetus. In some, the woman does not have to see the image, but she does have to have the ultrasound stored in her medical records. This does two things, both of which I don’t agree with.

First, it tries to guilt a woman out of doing something she has a legal right to do. Second, it’s not necessary, with the (high) possibility to be emotionally damaging—women likely to need abortions are the same women likely to be scarred by the ultrasound experience. The effects of the law, emotional and physical upheaval, are enough to make the law horrific and in violation of the right to privacy and the right to choose. But the act of the law, a woman being forced to undergo a vaginal probe, is enough to qualify it as rape. Perhaps not in the tight legal definitions of the word, but rape nonetheless.


An Unwanted Ultrasound Offers a Second Chance and Should Not be Equated with Rape


Texas’s new law toward abortion has created quite the scandal. Strongly supported by Governor Rick Perry, the Texas Sonogram Law requires women to have a sonogram before they can have an abortion. According Nicolas Cristof’s article in The New York Times “When States Abuse Women,” this required sonogram should be considered rape because of the way it is conducted. It’s not the traditional gel-on-belly sonograms.

For this type of sonogram, an ultrasound probe is inserted into the vagina and the patient must listen to the fetus’s heartbeat. Then, the doctor must explain every single part of the baby’s body. Finally, the woman is sent home to reflect and must wait 24 hours before she comes back to have the abortion. To support his view, Cristof quoted Texas doctor Curtis Boyd, who suggests this type of procedure to be rape because the patient is being forced by law to have an ultrasound that requires insertion into the female. Although other females might agree with Boyd, I disagree.

Actually it’s a great idea because it gives the woman time to think, and decide if she really wants to end her pregnancy; it also gives life more value. Many times fetuses are undermined because they do not have two legs and a head, but they are still life. The fact that this law has been passed is a way of giving much more weight to life regardless of the stage it is in. Even in the womb the fetus already has a heartbeat. It is alive and ending the pregnancy would be destroying a life.

It also promotes rational thinking. There are many reasons why a woman might want an abortion and one of them might be because she feels her only option is aborting the child. She goes to the doctor for an abortion rather than weighing her options. Now, with this law, women have the possibility of rethinking their decision and making sure that an abortion is the way to go.

This procedure is not rape. The object of the law is not to make women undergo a grueling process; the government is simply making women realize the significance of their decisions. Although I understand an ultrasound is a very difficult procedure, with the law it has become part of the abortion formula, and more women should not criticize this new law but rather see it as an addition to the procedure, a good addition.

Maybe after listening to the heartbeat of her fetus, the mother could have a change of heart and decide not go through with the abortion. I’ve heard plenty of women say that after they hear or see their child for the first time through a sonogram a bond is formed. That’s the objective of this new law. It gives the fetus a chance to live and it gives the parents a chance to determine if terminating the pregnancy is what they want.