KHN Morning Briefing

Summaries of health policy coverage from major news organizations

Some States Calling For Ultrasounds To Limit Abortion

News outlets report on state initiatives to limit abortions by requiring an ultrasound before the procedure.

"Over the last decade, ultrasound has quietly become a new front in the grinding state-by-state battle over abortion," The New York Times reports. "With backing from anti-abortion groups, which argue that sonograms can help persuade women to preserve pregnancies, 20 states have enacted laws that encourage or require the use of ultrasound. Alabama is one of three states, along with Louisiana and Mississippi, that require abortion providers to conduct an ultrasound and offer women a chance to peer inside the womb. Late last month, Oklahoma went a step further. Overriding a veto by Gov. Brad Henry, a Democrat, the Republican-controlled Legislature enacted a law mandating that women be presented with an ultrasound image and with a detailed oral description of the embryo or fetus."

Studies suggest that viewing an ultrasound does not lead women to make a different choice or "make the experience more difficult," and "[i]n some instances, the ultrasounds have affected women in ways not intended by anti-abortion strategists. Because human features may barely be detectable during much of the first trimester, when 9 of 10 abortions are performed, some women find viewing the images reassuring" (Sack, 5/27).

In Florida, a measure requiring women to view a sonogram before getting an abortion has been passed by the legislature but not yet sent to Gov. Charlie Crist, I-Fla, The Miami Herald reports. "Opponents speculate that House leaders are deliberately delaying to give bill supporters the most possible time to flood the governor's office with calls and e-mails. ... Through Thursday, Crist's office had received 20,018 calls, e-mails and letters urging him to sign the bill, and 12,989 total messages urging a veto. ... Crist has repeatedly voiced strong reservations about the bill and he is expected to veto it" (Bousquet and Frank, 5/28).

In South Carolina, a bill pending in the House would "extend the waiting period for abortions to 24 hours from the time of an ultrasound," The Greenville News reports. "Senators have argued that the proposal would force women to make two visits to the abortion clinic, a hardship for women in poor and rural areas. The Senate plan allows a woman to choose where to have the ultrasound, grants exceptions for women who are victims of rape or incest and allows women to use their computers to download required information about the issue from a state health website and for the waiting period to begin after the download" (Smith, 5/28).

This is part of the KHN Morning Briefing, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.