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Why do pro-choice activists oppose mandatory ultrasounds? They don't prevent women from having abortions; if a woman initially requests an abortion but then declines after seeing an ultrasound, doesn't that mean her initial request was not informed?

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    Reminder: Don't discuss abortion in the comment thread.
    – James K
    Sep 18 at 18:43

5 Answers 5

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The ultrasound procedure in the first trimester is likely not what you envision with the gel and the paddles on the belly. During the first trimester, an ultrasound wand is inserted into the vagina to get an image. Especially if the woman is pregnant as a result of rape, but even otherwise, this can be a traumatic experience in itself, especially if the woman doesn’t want to receive the ultrasound in the first place.

It’s also worth noting that ultrasounds are not zero-cost activities. Requiring an ultrasound adds cost and additional time to the procedure.

The other flaw in your question is that you assume the ultrasound will change the woman’s mind about the pregnancy. I don’t have any statistics, but I’m guessing it’s not a significant factor in deciding whether to continue the pregnancy.¹


  1. I would guess that emotional pressure from an anti-abortion counselor would be more likely to have an impact than merely seeing the ultrasound. This, of course, feeds into your question about the consent being informed: if someone can be talked into changing their mind, does that mean that their consent is uninformed? What if they change their mind again?
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    Comments are not for extended discussion; this conversation has been moved to chat.
    – JJJ
    Sep 20 at 1:10
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    "The other flaw in your question is that you’re assuming that the ultrasound is likely to change the woman’s mind about the pregnancy." That's probably because this is the only logical assumption, given that anti-abortion activists are in favor of mandatory ultrasounds. Why would they favor making ultrasounds mandatory, if they didn't believe that it was likely to change the woman's mind about the pregnancy? What would you offer as an alternative explanation?
    – Cody Gray
    Sep 20 at 7:31
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    @CodyGray it's not necessarily true because anti-abortion activists believe it Sep 20 at 8:11
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    @JacobRaihle Sure it's not necessarily true, but as Cody says, it's what they believe. And that makes it a significant explanation for why they want it.
    – Graham
    Sep 20 at 11:01
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    please don't continue discussions in the comments, especially once the pre-existing comments were moved to a chat room.
    – CGCampbell
    Sep 20 at 13:58
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Because it's an invasive procedure (it's a transvaginal ultrasound, i.e. involves the insertion of ultrasound wand into the vagina) that is being made mandatory by so-called "pro-life" activists for the sole purpose of making it unnecessarily more difficult to have an abortion.

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    how do you define "invasive procedure"?
    – Esther
    Sep 19 at 17:28
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    @Esther, inserting something into your body cavity without your consent because it's mandatory by the government.
    – coblr
    Sep 19 at 18:50
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    @coblr "body cavity" is not a given, see my comment on Don Hosek's answer above (and some other people's comments). If the objection is specifically about transvaginal ultrasounds, then IMO it's rather disingenuous to object to all ultrasounds on those grounds.
    – Esther
    Sep 19 at 18:51
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    @Esther Because in this case they are transvaginal. Sep 20 at 0:16
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    @Esther IMO it does not matter that it is invasive or not. The main point is that it is unnecessary, and put there only to difficult abortions. It is akin to forcing people to do some push-ups before allowing them to have a teeth removed.
    – SJuan76
    Sep 20 at 15:26
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If it's mandatory before an abortion, obviously it makes abortion one step more difficult to obtain. And also it's a psychological pressure for would-be mother: "see, your child has a face already, look again".

Also I'd argue that some ultrasounds may be disliked by pro-life activists, because if an ultrasound elucidates Down syndrome in a fetus, it's a prime target for abortion a few days later.

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  • Before you comment, please remember that Politics Stack Exchange is not a discussion forum. This is not a place to debate abortion.
    – Philipp
    Sep 20 at 6:56
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There are very good reason to take an ultrasound before abortion using abortion-pills, as if the pregnancy unknowingly is in the tubes rather than the uterus - or even worse, on the outside of the womb (yeah, can apparently happen) - the abortion-pill will cause severe bleeding.

However when an ultrasound gets mandated by law, it's not to make sure an abortion is safe, but to force the pregnant woman to hear a heartbeat (even when it's technically before there even is a heart) or see the fetus (in glorious high-definition 3d rendering by special sonogram-machine) 1) - all in the hope to manipulate her to change her mind, and keep the baby.

  1. Such 3d sonogram-machines are very popular with "fake" "abortion consultants" setting up shop near actual abortion providers by Christian groups to lure women seeking abortion in, an try to stall them until it's too late in the pregnancy.
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    It should probably be said that these 3D renderings or even the heart beats are more artistic works than what is really there visible by bare eye (if one would be able to really look there).
    – Trilarion
    Sep 19 at 15:25
  • The pills are used for ectopic pregnancies. Sep 20 at 0:17
  • @LorenPechtel do you have a source for that?
    – Someone
    Sep 21 at 4:37
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    @Trilarion - Are you stating ob/gyns are peddlers of fake technology?
    – paulj
    Sep 22 at 11:54
  • @paulj Yes, but at least here you have to pay extra for these artistic renderings. Health insurance does not cover it, so it's okay.
    – Trilarion
    Sep 22 at 15:07
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Information verus plea to emotion

Aside, from the obvious excellent answer already given on the invasive nature of transvaginal ultrasounds, I think the premise of the question is flawed: there is a difference between information and emotion. You don't inform someone when you're moving them to act on emotion.

If I ask you if you would sacrifice a child to save 100 children, most would say yes. It's rational consequentialism. However, if I asked you if you would sacrifice your own child (or a child you knew) to save 100 children, you'd likely say no. This isn't because you're more informed having known the child to be sacrificed, it's because you're acting on emotion. Emotions operate to obstruct reason.

That's fundamentally what's happening here, and that's the desired effect. No one is arguing that the mother of the fetus is being irrational by desiring a pregnancy or abortion. You're not informing her. You're making an emotional plea. Many pro-choice advocates argue that this emotional plea is not in the woman's best interest.

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  • Please remember that Politics Stack Exchange is not a discussion forum. This is not a place to debate abortion.
    – Philipp
    Sep 20 at 6:55
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    Thanks for addressing the key overlooked point in the otherwise well formed accepted answer. Good on you.
    – Ram
    Sep 25 at 11:49

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