So last year, Texas law makers passed an anti-abortion law that that required doctors to perform ultrasounds on patients seeking abortions. This is, sadly, not unusual a number of other states also require sonograms before an abortion procedure. This law takes it one giant step forward however and also requires that the doctor show the ultrasound image to their patient. The patient can choose to opt-out of seeing the image; however they cannot opt-out of hearing a description of the image and hearing the fetal heartbeat if there is one. The only exemptions to this are if a patient CERTIFIES that they are a rape or incest victim or if the abortion is the result of fetal defects.
The Center for Reproductive Rights filed suit against the law on behalf of the states abortion providers with the argument that it violates a physician’s first amendment right to free speech by forcing them to provide medically unnecessary and biased information to their abortion patients. Well the 5th circuit judge Sam Sparks agreed and blocked the law from being enforced until the final hearing determines the laws status.
The state’s legal team decided to appeal this decision and the 3 judge panel decided to overrule Judge Sparks decision on the grounds that the law only requires the doctors to provide “truthful, non-misleading information” and is therefore totally not unconstitutional. Except that, in my (not a legal expert) it in fact does. It requires doctors to perform a (usually) medically unnecessary sonogram and tell their patient details about it that are not medically relevant to the procedure being done. How is that not violation of the doctors right to freedom of speech? And for that matter how is it not violating the patient’s right to bodily autonomy? The patient is choosing to have an abortion; they are not choosing to see images of a fetus on a sonogram machine.
In the decision the authoring judge even states that the patients’ rights are not being violated because although the doctor has the obligation to display and describe the sonogram image and make the fetal heartbeat audible, the patient can “simply choose not to look or listen.” So what? People seeking abortions can put on eye covers and headphones? Or just look away and plug up their ears? That is the recommended solution for forcing women to have a sonogram done when they don’t want one? That is absurd.
In some cases, particularly in earlier gestational abortions, a trans-vaginal sonogram may be required to get an image. This is in itself a whole bag of ridiculousness and for more information on that check out what Andrea Grimes has to say over at Hey Ladies.
While it is important to note that most providers will perform an ultrasound of some kind prior to an abortion, to determine fetal size etc, the issue at hand isn’t so much the giving an ultrasound so much as it is REQUIRING them. Unless you can CERTIFY you are a rape or incest victim, but considering that most rapes go unreported this is likely going to be a rarely used exception.