Following last week’s anti-abortion side-show on Capitol Hill, the issue of mandatory ultrasounds for women seeking abortions is making headlines once again. Proponents of these ‘fetal heartbeat’ measures argue that ultrasounds help make the idea of pregnancy more serious or ‘real’ for pregnant women. But how stupid do you have to think women are to believe they’re not aware of what’s growing inside of them without seeing a picture of it?
Earlier this month, Republican Presidential candidate Rep. Michele Bachmann introduced a bill, the “Heartbeat Informed Consent Act,” that would require all pregnant women to undergo an ultrasound procedure before they could legally consent to having an abortion. During the ultrasound, doctors would be required to make the fetal heartbeat both visible and audible, and describe the ultrasound image. If a woman is only 4-5 weeks pregnant, regular ultrasounds can’t pick up the heartbeat, so a ‘transvaginal ultrasound‘ (which involves placing a probe in the vagina) would have to be performed.
To gain support for the bill, a coalition of anti-abortion groups performed live ultrasounds on pregnant women from a stage in the Congressional Auditorium last Thursday (a “fetus testifying” before a Congressional committee, as Jezebel’s Margaret Hartmann put it). While that’s all well and good from a spectacle perspective, I feel fairly confident that most members of Congress are aware of the concepts of ultrasounds, I’m not sure how live ultrasound performance adds anything to a Congressional debate of the issue (lawmakers apparently also felt there were better uses of their time, too—only four showed up). The event served as a kickoff for Voices From the Womb tour, which now plans to bring it’s traveling fetus-viewing party to “schools, churches, state capitals, parks and legislative hearings” around the United States.
Meanwhile, a coalition of anti-abortion groups is pushing legislation in all 50 states that would require women see and hear the fetal heartbeat before having an abortion. It’s backed by National Right to Life, the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, Americans United for Life, Susan B. Anthony List and Family Research Council Action.
Ultrasounds before abortions are medically unnecessary, Nancy Stanwood, an obstetrician and board member of the health advocacy group Physicians for Reproductive Choice and Health, told the Huffington Post.