Averting Their Eyes from Assault on Women’s Health


"Nothing in this section shall be construed to prevent a pregnant
woman from averting her eyes from the ultrasound images required to be
provided to and reviewed with her." This is the "good news" of an
egregious law recently passed in Oklahoma making ultrasounds mandatory
for abortion patients. But though I read the law carefully (available here in its entirety),
I couldn’t find anything allowing women to also cover their ears during
the ultrasound. This is unfortunate, because the law requires that
those performing the ultrasound "provide a simultaneous explanation of
what the ultrasound is depicting," and also "provide a medical
description of the ultrasound images, which shall include the
dimensions of the embryo or fetus, the presence of cardiac activity, if
present and viewable, and the presence of external members and internal
organs, if present and viewable." Even those women who are aborting a
pregnancy caused by rape or incest are compelled to undergo such
mandated ultrasounds.

Ultrasounds have become one of the key weapons of anti-abortion
legislators. A number of states require abortion providers to make
ultrasounds available; a handful of others make viewing mandatory, but
Oklahoma is the first state, according to the Center for Reproductive Rights, that requires a woman to hear the description of an ultrasound image.

The Oklahoma law has the added perverse feature of preventing a
woman from suing her doctor if he or she intentionally withholds other
information about the fetus, such as an anomaly. So, women are forced
to hear something they may not choose to hear, but are not entitled to
information that would be presumably of critical importance to them.
Such is the state of public policy when it is in the hands of
anti-abortion fanatics.

The Center has filed a challenge against the law,
on behalf of a clinic in Tulsa, Reproductive Services, arguing that
this law "profoundly intrudes upon a patient’s privacy, endangers her
health, and assaults her dignity."

This Oklahoma law is particularly interesting to me, because I
am in the midst of writing a book on contemporary abortion provision. I
have been of course documenting the many assaults–-physical, legal, and
cultural-–on abortion providers, but I also have been writing about what
constitutes good abortion care. After interviewing and observing
numerous providers, and participating in their listserv discussions, I
realize that one of the core principles of this field is that all women
can’t be treated alike. One-size-fits-all policies just don’t make
sense, given the different needs and backgrounds of abortion patients.
I have been continually struck by the accounts I have heard of
providers attempting to "meet the woman where she is at," to quote a
phrase frequently used in this field.

For example, the fact that abortion providers are predictably
appalled by the Oklahoma law does not preclude their recognition that
some abortion patients do in fact wish to see their ultrasound. And
these women’s requests are honored. Common sense.

But it is not common sense-–or common decency-–that is driving
the Oklahoma legislators who passed this law. Rather, the intent here,
as with so many of the hundreds of anti-abortion bills that have been
passed, is to harass patients and make operations difficult, if not
impossible, for the provider community. In the case of Reproductive
Services, the clinic challenging the law, the legislators may be
successful. An article in the Tulsa World quotes the administrator of
the clinic saying her facility will probably not be able to survive financially
if this law is upheld, because of the added costs. The clinic,
incidentally, also provides contraceptive services and adoption
counseling and referrals.

As one of the wisest women I know in the abortion providing
community frequently says, when confronted with such blatantly cruel
legislation, "Dude, where’s our country?"

This post first appeared on the Beacon Broadside.

Like this story? Your $10 tax-deductible contribution helps support our research, reporting, and analysis.

  • alice-bacon

    Wow, thank you for sharing this. I had no idea that any states *required* ultrasound viewing and *hearing.* My jaw just dropped to the floor. I accidently looked at the ultrasound when I sat up before my 13 week abortion when I hadn’t wanted to and it was tough.

    Blatantly cruel legislation, indeed.

    • invalid-0

      It was tough because you were about to allow the murder of a defenseless human being.

  • invalid-0

    That’s just sickening. An utterly unconscionable intrusion into women’s medical treatment. Also sickening that doctors can legally withhold information about deformities and such, which is an egregious violation of the right to give informed consent. Seems these legislators enjoy tormenting women and treating them as subhumans.

  • invalid-0

    This is so disgusting to me! The fact is you all do not want to know the truth! The truth is that yes…abortion is killing innocent life and stopping a beating heart! You don’t want to see or hear the truth. You want to quietly kill your unborn child and be able to convince yourself that it’s not really a baby…it is just a product of conception…modern science is proving what pro-lifers have been saying for a long time…life begins at conception…life is amazing and should be protected not destroyed! I am so thankful for this legislation…you are so quick to talk about the woman’s right to privacy…I agree with privacy…but not when it comes to killing babies! Who will speak for those who cannot speak for themselves! Who are the “subhumans” here…I am so sorry to you women who have already aborted your babies…you have bought into the lies of our culture! May God help us all!!

  • invalid-0

    I get so tired of people thinking that women are too stupid to make their own decisions. Oklahoma is the most backward state I have been in. They, too, support abstinence only sex ed for teens, the group that needs the information the most. It’s the females that get her by not getting information they need to avoid pregnancies. They also get lies fed to them in schools about avoiding std’s. Then, they wonder why teens get pregnant and why young adults have unwanted children. These people should not have to feed the adoption machine with “goods” because some women is barren. A vaginal ultrasound, how quaint.

  • invalid-0

    So Jen are you saying that I bought into the cultural lies whatever the heck that is when I had an abortion to save my life in a doomed pregnancy? Neither of us would of survived so what is so great about dooming both for the sake of your proLIFE? cause? Glad to see you care so much about women and their health, Jen. Why don’t you go back to the science you claim supports you and read it again cause maybe just maybe you will see that you are wrong. I also think it is wrong of you to call women subhuman that get abortions and those who support prochoice legislation. If you would bother to get to know any of us you would see we are the ones who truly care obviously it ain’t your group for they support terrible things in name of life like oh say making rape and incest survivors go thru this kind of ultrasound. To me that is subhuman.

  • invalid-0

    Any woman forced to undergo an ultrasound under this horrible law should buy a good pair of earplugs and wear them during the procedure. Or maybe she should talk as loudly as she can to drown out the doctor. There’s nothing in the law to prohibit that.

  • invalid-0

    “I get so tired of people thinking that women are too stupid to make their own decisions” – E.D.

    Then take a nap, ED. If you think that every single woman going in for an abortion knows what her about-to-be-offed kid looks like, then you should talk to some women who have had abortions once you awake from that nap.

    Carole: How would the clinic in Tulsa not survive this mandate? Do they not have an ultrasound machine? Also, is the “perverse” feature you’re referring to Section 14 of the law?

  • invalid-0

    I’m pretty sure the vast majority of women who have abortions are perfectly aware of what a foetus looks like. The assumption by pro-lifers does indeed seem to be that women are either morons or psychopaths. It’s kinda insulting.

  • invalid-0

    I am not sure what your medical condition is, but I know it is extremely rare(1% or less) for a woman to require an abortion for the sake of her life, as well as for rape or incest.

    Since you don’t know what her medical condition is, you should just keep quiet about whether or not Liz should have had an abortion. It’s a matter between her and her doctor. Period.

  • invalid-0

    To Doctor Dredd…what a lovely name, by the way…I can’t keep quiet…because someone needs to speak for the innocent. I will not be silent…I cannot be silent…my hope is that one day your eyes and the eyes of all those who turn a blind eye to the truth about abortion will be opened! In my opinon it does not matter what her medical condition is…yes, I know that seems really harsh to you, doesn’t it. As I stated before, less than 1% of ALL abortions are done in cases of the mother’s health, rape or incest. Those who support abortion hide behind the woman’s health issue…who cares about the baby’s health…well, I and many, many others care about the baby as well as the mother…”period”.

  • invalid-0

    “yes, I know that seems really harsh to you, doesn’t it”

    Harsh does not describe it, sick is more accurate. First, I do not believe your 1% statistic, not in a country like this one where, even with the option of abortion, the maternal mortality rate is so high. Second, even were your statistic valid how many breathing, educated lives do you think that would represent each year? How many women and little girls are you and yours willing to snuff out in your continuing deification of the human fetus?
    I do appreciate your honesty about how maternal mortality and the health or life of the gestation device is a matter of indifference to you and the rest of the ‘pro-life’ movement. It’s a set of values and priorities which has been obvious to many of us for a good while. I hope that you understand that many people find this an appalling and misguided set of priorities and values which is why the ‘pro-life’ movement is widely and increasingly regarded as a fanatical and dangerous cult we need to protect our children from.

  • invalid-0

    You have to be kidding me…”I hope that you understand that many people find this an appalling and misguided set of priorities and values which is why the ‘pro-life’ movement is widely and increasingly regarded as a fanatical and dangerous cult we need to protect our children from”…I think if you would check the facts the majority of America does not agree with you. For someone who seems so passionate about ending innocent life, you should educate yourself a little more. The statistic I quoted you is accurate and very sad. I don’t know where you get the idea that the maternal mortality rate is so high…check out the facts and you will find that is far from the truth. “I do appreciate your honesty about how maternal mortality and the health or life of the gestation device is a matter of indifference to you and the rest of the ‘pro-life’ movement”…you are so far from the truth…and you simply can’t see past your own selfish agenda. Do you not see that I do not benefit in any way AT ALL from my stand for life! I am not out to make women suffer…abortion is a far riskier “procedure” as opposed to the natural process of birth. I have to end this…you won’t change your mind…just think for a minute about the helpless, defenseless baby…nestled safely in the mother’s womb…a safe haven for he or she to grow until they are mature enough to live in the “outside world”…then they are either sucked or pulled from the mother’s womb…can you even imagine pulling a baby out piece by piece…what has our society reduced itself to. All I am doing is trying to protect those who can’t protect themselves…they didn’t chose to be conceieved…but they were…and they deserve the same rights as a baby outside of the womb…a few inches shouldn’t determine their personhood!

  • dr-suzanne-poppema

    It is interesting to me that antichoice followers  think women still don’t understand that an abortion is to remove a fetus. It is so demeaning to women to charge that they make an appointment for an abortion and somehow don’t know that they’ll leave the office no longer pregnant, how dumb do they think we are?  Also, knowing
    that women will symbolically walk over hot coals to get their abortions that they know they need, WHY do they think that forcing a woman to look at an ultrasound will change her mind???  I have often had women in my clinic ask to see their U/S, they DO NOT change their minds based on what they see.  Back to basics, women are intelligent, moral beings capable of making the decision when and if to become Moms!

  • invalid-0

    In my opinon it does not matter what her medical condition is…yes, I know that seems really harsh to you, doesn’t it. As I stated before, less than 1% of ALL abortions are done in cases of the mother’s health, rape or incest. Those who support abortion hide behind the woman’s health issue…who cares about the baby’s health…well, I and many, many others care about the baby as well as the mother

    I don’t believe the 1% statistic either, but I’ll set that argument aside for now.
    .
    Assuming the statistic is true, what would you do in the case of the 1% of women whose life and health is threatened? Pretend that you’re a doctor for a moment. What would you say to a patient in this situation?
    .
    The American College of Obstetrics and Gynecology has this to say: “The maternal-fetal relationship is unique, because it involves the pregnant woman’s autonomy concerning her health, the obstetrician’s beneficence-based obligations to enhance the health of the pregnant woman and the fetus, and the pregnant woman’s beneficence-based responsibility to promote the welfare of her fetus. Every reasonable effort should be made to protect the fetus, but the pregnant woman’s autonomy should be respected.
    .
    Sometimes, despite our best efforts to prevent it, there will be situations where the interests of the mother and the interests of the fetus are in direct conflict. I have no qualms about putting the interests of the pregnant woman first. My reasons for this are:
    .
    1.) The 14th Amendment: “All persons born or naturalized in the United States, and subject to the jurisdiction thereof, are citizens of the United States and of the State wherein they reside. No State shall make or enforce any law which shall abridge the privileges or immunities of citizens of the United States; nor shall any State deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws.” My emphasis on the word “born” is deliberate.
    .
    2.) Conservative Jewish religious tradition, which prohibits a woman from sacrificing herself for the sake of her fetus.

  • invalid-0

    I think if you would check the facts the majority of America does not agree with you

    Decades worth of polls are publicly available and I have read them for decades. Most people in this country do not wish to see women dying in childbirth because an ecumenical cult of religious fanatics lost all sense of perspective decades ago and cannot shut up or stop lying.

    I’m passionate about the lives of women your ‘faith’ sees as disposable and about the US Constitution.

    The statistic I quoted you is accurate and very sad.

    I do not believe you or it.

    I don’t know where you get the idea that the maternal mortality rate is so high…check out the facts and you will find that is far from the truth.

    Here’s a cite:
    http://ipsnews.net/news.asp?idnews=39642

    and another:
    http://hrc.nwlc.org/Status-Indicators/Key-Conditions/Maternal-Mortality-Rate.aspx

    The UN and the CDC keep statistics on maternal mortality rates.

    I am not out to make women suffer

    I understand that our suffering or death isn’t your goal but it’s clearly an inevitable result and a result you publicly stated your indifference to.

    Oh and btw, pregnancy is far more risky than abortion. Perhaps you should do some independent fact checking yourself.

  • http://thewelltimedperiod.blogspot.com invalid-0

    The truth is that yes…abortion is killing innocent life and stopping a beating heart! and You want to quietly kill your unborn child and be able to convince yourself that it’s not really a baby…it is just a product of conception…

    What is the point of coming here and proclaiming your alternate reality Teh Truth? No matter how many “killing”, “innocent”, or “unborn child” you throw around, the fact remains that an abortion terminates a pregnancy.

    You don’t want to see or hear the truth.

    It seems you’re not clear on the concept of medical tests. A test, like an U/S, is not performed for fun or propaganda. You need to have a medical indication for it.

    …modern science is proving what pro-lifers have been saying for a long time…life begins at conception…

    Again, I must ask, what’s with the kindergarten-level propaganda?

    …life is amazing and should be protected not destroyed!

    Glad to hear you support access to safe and effective medical procedures, like abortions, in an effort to protect the woman’s life.

    I am so thankful for this legislation…you are so quick to talk about the woman’s right to privacy…I agree with privacy…but not when it comes to killing babies! Who will speak for those who cannot speak for themselves!

    If you’re thankful for physicians being required to assault their patients before being allowed to render care, and being immune from malpractice lawsuits if they lie to patients about their condition, wait till your doctor does a rectal U/S on you and tells you it’s the new Pap. You’ll be ecstatic.

    Who are the “subhumans” here…

    The kiddy propaganda, it is getting tiresome.

    I am so sorry to you women who have already aborted your babies…you have bought into the lies of our culture!

    Good news! Since 1) abortions terminate pregnancies, and 2) women are quite capable of informed consent, no need to be sorry.

    May God help us all!!

    Which God?

    I can’t keep quiet…because someone needs to speak for the innocent.

    Your desire to advocate on behalf of all those, you know, innocent women is commendable.

    I will not be silent…I cannot be silent…my hope is that one day your eyes and the eyes of all those who turn a blind eye to the truth about abortion will be opened!

    Nobody’s asking you to be silent. Just a tad less patronizing and misinformed.

    In my opinon it does not matter what her medical condition is…yes, I know that seems really harsh to you, doesn’t it. As I stated before, less than 1% of ALL abortions are done in cases of the mother’s health, rape or incest.

    First, you are entitled to your opinion, harsh as it may be. The point of this discussion is that the government needs to be kept out of medical decisions in order to protect pregnant women from those who share your disregard for their health.

    Second, can you support your 1% assertion with some evidence. [To be fair, that was a trick question. I know the stat is not valid.]

    Those who support abortion hide behind the woman’s health issue…

    It would be helpful if you didn’t confuse your fantasy with reality.

    …who cares about the baby’s health…

    Um, the pregnant woman.

    …well, I and many, many others care about the baby as well as the mother…”period”.

    Your interest in the state of other people’s internal organs notwithstanding, this In my opinon it does not matter what her medical condition is is the opposite of caring about the pregnant woman.

    I think if you would check the facts the majority of America does not agree with you.

    You do realize that insisting that facts support your position without, you know, providing any facts whatsoever crosses over into buffoonery.

    For someone who seems so passionate about ending innocent life, you should educate yourself a little more.

    Ah, yes, sage advise from someone for whom “educate yourself” is a foreign concept.

    The statistic I quoted you is accurate and very sad.

    The statistic you quoted is caca. But, please, try and prove me wrong and link to your source and defend it.

    I don’t know where you get the idea that the maternal mortality rate is so high…check out the facts and you will find that is far from the truth.

    If you don’t even know the basics–maternal mortality rate–take your own advice and acquaint yourself with some facts. It will help you with getting a grasp on reality.

    “I do appreciate your honesty about how maternal mortality and the health or life of the gestation device is a matter of indifference to you and the rest of the ‘pro-life’ movement”…you are so far from the truth…and you simply can’t see past your own selfish agenda. Do you not see that I do not benefit in any way AT ALL from my stand for life! I am not out to make women suffer…

    Sure you do and sure you are. Exhibit A:

    …abortion is a far riskier “procedure” as opposed to the natural process of birth.

    “Wow”, just “wow.” This is [almost] beyond snark.

    just think for a minute about the helpless, defenseless baby…nestled safely in the mother’s womb…a safe haven for he or she to grow until they are mature enough to live in the “outside world”…then they are either sucked or pulled from the mother’s womb…

    Ugh, at the risk of stating the obvious, there is no such thing as a free-floating feto-American in utero. There’s a pregnancy with a very aggressive and competent placental component, as well as a very well protected fetal component. Also, I hate to burst your bubble, but if you think tickling or persuasion, as opposed to suck[ing] or pull[ing] from the mother’s womb are involved in effecting a term delivery, you are sadly mistaken.

    …can you even imagine pulling a baby out piece by piece…what has our society reduced itself to.

    Hey, take your complaint to SCOTUS. They’re the ones who banned intact delivery and decreed dismemberment the medical standard of care.

    All I am doing is trying to protect those who can’t protect themselves…they didn’t chose to be conceieved…but they were…and they deserve the same rights as a baby outside of the womb…a few inches shouldn’t determine their personhood!

    Since pregnant women who need, or elect, to abort didn’t chose to be conceieved…but they were I do agree with you that, at the very least, they deserve rights afforded a neonate.

  • invalid-0

    So, Jen, how many dozen unwanted, post-born children have you adopted?

  • invalid-0

    You and people like you make me want to vomit. If I get raped im having a goddamn abortion so f*** you!!!!!!!! Who cares about some sea creature the size of a pin inside my own body? I care about real people with real lives and feelings and thoughts. If my mom was raped and wanted to abort me when I was a fetus I would have been fine with it because i was not awake or alive or had a life or experiences or feeling or ANYTHING! It was basically like I didnt exist so what is the difference? I am so sorry to people like you with no concept of common sense.

  • invalid-0

    I agree with her and so do most people I know. Its common sense. What is more important? The health and well-being of someone who has a life,memories,feelings,thoughts,friends and relationships or a tadpole like creature who has no idea it even exists and who does not posses ANY of these previously named characteristics. The ONLY way I wouldnt argue someone who is pro-”life” is if it is their religion. Just like with fanatical muslims there is no way to reason with them. Their religion tells them to kill themselves and they will get to rape virgins in heaven. They believe in their ridiculous ideals just as much as you do.

  • invalid-0

    To emaa…you are a cold and heartless individual!

  • invalid-0

    I know exactly what you are all going to say…any intelligent woman knows what she is aborting…she doesn’t need to see an ultrasound. Modern technology is making even more evident of what the truth is. A baby is alive and growing…and abortion is therefore MURDER! How can any sane person deny that a “pregnancy” is a developing “fetus”….developing….my children are all developing…continually…when my babies were born they were still dependent on me for survival and they will continue to be until their skill level develops to the point of being ready to live on their own. Does that give me the right to kill them because they are depending on me…and on some days I feel it is inconvenient…I think not!
    http://www.babystepsdvd.com/
    http://www.medterms.com/script/main/art.asp?articlekey=11893

  • mellankelly1

    A baby is alive and growing…and abortion is therefore MURDER!

    Killing a baby is murder.  Terminating a pregnancy is a perfectly legal medical procedure which prevents the birth of a baby.  If you do not understand what murder is, I suggest you read up… simply making a claim and using ALL CAPS does not make your claim truthful.

    my children are all developing…continually…when my babies were born they were still dependent on me for survival and they will continue to be until their skill level develops to the point of being ready to live on their own

    Not true… anyone can keep a baby alive.  Only the pregnant woman can gestate her pregnancy.  If you were unable to care for your children, our social services system would see to it that they were taken care of by someone else.

    Does that give me the right to kill them because they are depending on me…and on some days I feel it is inconvenient…I think not

    We’re back to a basic understanding of what murder is exactly.  Clearly, women/men have killed their children and depending upon whether or not it was determined to be murder or manslaughter, these people are spending time in a jail or psychiatric facility.  None of the statements you’ve made are compelling enough to criminalize abortion.

  • invalid-0

    What happened to independent thinking? So, as long as a judge rules that something is legal, then it is also moral…makes no sense at all.
    Meriam-Webster’s definition of murder inlcudes…”to put an end to”…which is exactly what abortion does…it puts an end to a human life….there, I didn’t use any caps! Does that make you feel better?? I am glad that we can agree that killing a baby is murder…I just wish that you could see that a baby doesn’t just appear after nine months of a pregnancy…the baby is there all along! So, abortion is putting an end to the pregnancy…the baby.
    I wonder what happens to all the aborted babies…maybe someone around here could tell me…????

  • heather-corinna

    (What happened to independent thinking, indeed.  That’s exactly what advocates here are generally in support of: for all of us to be able to make our own choices about our own bodies based on a wide array of personal beliefs about this issue.  Pro-choice advocates are not ever suggesting that our array of belief systems be yours.  You get to think as independently as you like, you just don’t get to — in a world where I have the same freedoms you do — have your thinking govern a uterus which does not belong to you.)

     

    I’m not going to even touch all of these accusations of murder and the lot, but since I do have a vested interest in cutting off any misinformation at the pass and see this as ripe for that, fetal tissue from clinics — unless the client asks to have it retained, either for DNA proof of rape or abuse or genetic testing,  for certain studies, or because they want to have a burial — is disposed of with general medical waste. This is done the same way and within the same standards that uterine tissue is disposed of when a D&C is done for other reasons, the same way swabs from pap smears are disposed of.

  • mellankelly1

     What happened to independent thinking?

    Funny thing you should mention independent thinking because that is exactly what I would recommend… choice suggests the opportunity or privilege of choosing freely.  Some synonyms for independent are autonomous or individual… I believe that each person is perfectly capable of independent thinking and as such should be trusted to come to his or her own conclusions regarding abortion, life and personhood.  I think it’s fabulous that you have your own opinions about these subjects but what you simply cannot do is force your opinions on the general population.

     Meriam-Webster’s definition of murder inlcudes…

    The legal definition of murder is the crime of unlawfully killing a person especially with malice aforethought.  I was merely correctly the claim that terminating ones pregnancy is "murder"… clearly, it is not.

  • invalid-0

    Nothing emaa has said indicated that she’s ‘cold’ or ‘heartless’, unless your definition of ‘cold and heartless’ is ‘doesn’t agree with me’.

    I think those who want to force women to stay pregnant – regardless of the impact on their health – can reasonably be described as cold and heartless.

  • http://dinodelellis.com/ invalid-0

    With all honesty I must say I’m a little conflicted with the abortion argument.

    One one hand I believe that all life is sacred and must be treated with respect, I’m just a little unsure when abortion is murder because in my opinion it still depends on how advanced a woman’s pregnancy is.

    On the other hand I also believe the woman’s right to free choice. Especially if she impregnated against her will or that pregnancy will endanger her life.

    - Dino Delellis