Saturday, March 3, 2012

Op-Ed by Katy Waters- Texas Further Complicates Abortion With A New Sonogram Law

Texas Further Complicates Abortion With A New Sonogram Law
The new sonogram law that requires women to listen to the fetal heartbeat and a description of the fetus by their doctor is shaming, demeaning, and most importantly, medically unnecessary.
Texas House Bill Number 325 was written to interfere with a woman’s decision to terminate her pregnancy, while lengthening the process. (And it is a process due to the new 2-day waiting period that was enforced starting October 1, 2011.)
Doctors (not ultra sound technicians) must now verbally explain ultrasound images: the dimensions of the fetus, if it has arms, legs, or internal organs, and must describe heartbeats if audible. But don’t worry, the woman can “choose to look away from the images.” Directions were not explicit on if she could plug her ears, too.
An exclusion offered in the bill states that if the fetus has an irreversible medical condition, or in cases of rape or incest, that women can opt out of the fetal images and their descriptions.
When the Center for Reproductive Rights challenged the sonogram law on the basis that it infringed on doctors’ free speech rights, the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals overturned the temporary order against enforcing the law. Chief Judge Edith Jones wrote in her statement, “The point of informed consent laws is to allow the patient to evaluate her condition and render he best decision under difficult circumstances. Denying her up-to-date medical information is more of an abuse to her ability to decide than providing the information.”
Then why the exclusion for certain cases? While I’m glad that victims may opt-out, the exclusion is a contradiction to the reasoning of upholding this law that assumes women don’t understand what being pregnant means, and that there is a good chance it will change her mind. (Although it may be too early to tell, Amy Hagstrom Miller, the owner of five Whole Woman’s Health clinics, has confirmed that the same percentage of women come back after their sonogram since the enforcement of this law.)
Advocates against abortion claim that women believe that their fetus is just a “blob of cells,” and that hearing and seeing the fetus will be so dramatic that she will actually reverse her decision to terminate her pregnancy. 65% of women who have abortions already have at least one child. They know a fetus is not a “blob of cells.”
That opinion is condescending of women’s mental capabilities. As Hagstrom Miller puts it, “We haven’t had a woman say, ‘Oh, my goodness, I didn’t expect to see a fetus,’ and then change her mind. She knows she’s pregnant.”
Imagine if restrictions of this sort were passed for different services. Let’s take getting your driver’s license for example.
Cars are death machines on wheels. In 1998, nearly 42,000 people were killed in traffic crashes, and another 3.2 million were injured, according to the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety.
Now imagine you have to make two trips to the DMV. (Waiting times at abortion clinics are much longer and obviously more traumatic than waiting at the DMV, but many Americans can relate to the dread they feel at even the mention of the DMV.) You wait and you wait and you wait, just to get to the front desk, and the friendly DMV associate tells you, “here’s some information about driving a motor vehicle, now wait 24 hours and come back.”
America would have a fit. But since this law only causes undue burden on pregnant women (not men, the second party involved in unwanted pregnancies), it’s okay.
Let me be clear. Women don’t waltz into abortion clinics. Women don’t come to an abortion clinic before they have heavily considered all of their options. Abortion isn’t fun. Women don’t become pregnant just so they can have an abortion. No one expects or wants to have an abortion.
Women will wait for 24 hours after their sonogram to have an abortion. They will sign extra forms, even listen to belittling details of the fetus they carry. This unnecessary medical information was passed to deter women from pregnancy, but it’s not the right tactic.
Passing legislation that addresses outcomes of an undesirable behavior is not the way to resolve the behavior. The right tactic is trying to reduce unintended pregnancies before they happen. But even if every sexually active woman has access to birth control, and used it consistently and correctly (assuming that’s the route you would take to prevent unintended pregnancies) the need for safe abortion will never be eliminated.
Adding petty restrictions such as medically unnecessary information and waiting periods is a disgrace to women’s intelligence, their will, and their ability to make choices for their family.