Forcing a patient to undergo a medically unnecessary procedure is unethical and demeaning, but that’s exactly what mandatory ultrasound laws do to people seeking abortion care.
For most patients seeking abortion care, an ultrasound is not medically necessary. Still, several states across the country require physicians to perform an ultrasound before performing an abortion. Some of those states also force a woman to view the ultrasound or listen to the heartbeat, even if she directly objects.
It is worth noting that, for safety reasons, The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists recommends ultrasounds be performed only for medical purposes by a qualified health-care provider.1
Mandatory ultrasound laws have no medical justification and are designed by anti-choice politicians solely to intimidate, shame and harass women who seek abortion.
To make matters worse, in some states, a patient seeking an abortion is required to make multiple trips to their doctor—one trip for the ultrasound and one trip for the procedure. A patient may be required to pay for the medically unnecessary ultrasound, whether they have asked for one or not, and some states don’t even include exceptions for survivors of rape or incest.
In 2011, the North Carolina General Assembly passed a law requiring that forced ultrasounds that must be performed four hours before a woman can have an abortion (except in emergencies) and that the individual is required to view the ultrasound images. Abortion providers are required to explain presence, location, and dimensions of the fetus; provide a medical description of the images; and offer listening to the fetal heart tone.
A federal court put this restriction on hold before it could go into effect and later struck it down as unconstitutional in a case brought by the ACLU-NC and other groups. A federal appeals court later upheld that ruling.
We will keep fighting against legislation that violates women’s freedom and privacy. Everyone should be able to make the medical decisions that are best for them and their family.
1 The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, ACOG President Advises Against Unnecessary Obstacles for Women Needing Ultrasound