The right has been obsessed with putting up pointless obstacles to getting an abortion: waiting periods, ultrasounds, vaginal ultrasounds, etc. Their entire purpose is to punish and increase the suffering and anxiety of women trying to get a legal and necessary procedure done, because they sure as heck have nothing to do with actually dissuading women from getting abortions.
Researchers analyzed over 15,575 visits to a large, urban abortion provider in 2011. All of the patients received an ultrasound before continuing with the abortion procedure, and all of them were given the opportunity to look at the image. Most patients chose not to look at it. Women did opt to view the ultrasound about 42 percent of the time — and among those women, about 98 percent of them went on to have an abortion anyway. Looking an the ultrasound only had an impact among the seven percent of women who reported they didn’t feel very certain about ending the pregnancy. “Such viewing does not alter decisions of the large majority of women who are certain that abortion is the right decision,” the researchers concluded.
That aligns with previous, smaller studies into this area. In 2012, after reviewing the data from two separate studies on the impact of ultrasounds, University of California researchers concluded that women’s emotional responses to seeing an ultrasound can vary, but those emotions ultimately don’t lead them to cancel their abortion appointment. Other studies have reported that 87 percent of women are “highly confident” about their decision to have an abortion, and state requirements that are intended to give them time to change their minds — like forced waiting periods, mandatory counseling sessions, and ultrasounds — don’t change their mind. Furthermore, a full 90 percent of women say their primary reaction to ending a pregnancy is “relief” and report they don’t regret their decision, suggesting that further invention wouldn’t have changed that reality.
The whole idea that ultrasounds might have a persuasive effect is built on the infantilization of women: if I show you a picture of your big-eyed placid fetus, you’ll break down in tears, fall in love with that grainy image (because you’re a woman, and that’s what you do, coo over baby pictures), and abort the abortion.
What the data actually show, though, is that women think seriously about the consequences of their decisions and make choices confidently — and that maybe significant life-changing decisions will not be lightly swayed by a jebus-lovin’ state senator telling doctors to make pregnant women stare at flickering gray images.