Ultrasound and Informed Consent

In the name of informed consent, more states are hopping on the ultrasound bandwagon.  Already, according to the Guttmacher Institute, 12 states have enacted legislation on the issue. The majority (6 states) require only that a woman have the option to view an ultrasound image of the fetus in the case that an ultrasound is performed as part of the clinic’s preparation. Many clinics nationwide follow this procedure, whether it is required or not.  But on the more disconcerting end, Alabama, Mississippi, and Louisiana require that each and every woman seeking an abortion have an ultrasound performed by the abortion provider (not an attendant) with a stipulation that the abortion-provider must ask the woman if she would like to see the image. In Florida and Arizona, this is only required after the first trimester.

But new state legislation is following in the footsteps that Oklahoma tread awhile back; law-makers in Nebraska, Indiana, and Texas are pushing for legislation requiring not only that an abortion provider perform an ultrasound on each woman seeking an abortion, but that the abortion provider would be forced to present the image to the woman, whether she looks at it or not.

And this is the justification:


"Many times, these are young mothers who are in vulnerable situations. And they are about to make a very grave choice." said Nebraska Sen. Tony Fulton of Lincoln, who introduced the ultrasound bill (LB675) there. "This is about informed consent."

Informed consent is used as a means to the end of rendering women who are seeking abortions as incompetent, vulnerable, and generally unable to understand what having reproductive power actually means (as if any of these guys would ever know).

And I’ll spare you the snark—I could laugh about how ridiculous it is to expect an ultrasound to render a woman all gushymushy baby-crazy and repentant of ever having considered abortion, but in all seriousness, I think this entire issue is worth more than righteous outrage and a snarky comment.

Because I do take informed consent seriously. Who doesn’t?

Generally speaking, I would appreciate knowing I had the option to view the image of the fetus. Many women do choose to do so, and here’s a shocker, many women go through with it anyway.  But it gets super problematic when 1.) The required ultrasound must be paid for by the woman seeking an abortion 2.) The patient must be referred to a “clinic” with ultrasound technology, which is usually a CPC, and 3.) The language surrounding the consent is dripping with scientifically incorrect rhetoric that wags a finger more than it outlines the details of the procedure.

Beyond that, I don’t need to tell you that forcing a woman to view the ultrasound is borderline perverse. In what world can one give informed consent to a medically sound procedure while being robbed of the dignity not to consent to a medically unnecessary requirement?

So what do we do if these pass? Have a riot? Start a revolution? Sue?  I suppose in the meantime, the best thing to do is remain vigilant. If you live in any of these states, you know the drill; let your representatives know just who they’re representing.

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  • moiv

    "Informed consent is used as a means to the end of rendering women who
    are seeking abortions as incompetent, vulnerable, and generally unable
    to understand what having reproductive power actually means (as if any
    of these guys would ever know)."



    This is the motivation behind all such bills, measures driven by legislators whose religion-fueled worldview precludes female autonomy in any area of life related to women’s sexuality — let alone the very idea of any reproductive power.  


    It is instructive to note that the current Texas version of this legislation was introduced by State Senator Dan Patrick, who also proposed the Texas Baby Purchasing Act of 2007




    Patrick appears to believe that pregnant women are not only stupid, but venal as well.

  • invalid-0

    By having a law mandating ultrasounds, these states are decimating informed consent? These women MUST consent to an ultrasound if they want an abortion. That’s coercion, the exact opposite of informed consent.
    As far as I’m concerned, the law is essentially requiring medical battery.

  • micah-steffes

    The idea of all of this as medical battery is interesting to me. Because while it sounds sort of extreme, this legislation really does edge into that territory when you consider the reality of it. Because, especially if it’s a transvaginal ultrasound, it is invasive. And especially so if it’s not welcome or desired. Of course, a vacuum aspiration is still pretty invasive, but like you said, that’s actually consented to. 

    To state the obvious again, it’s definitely pretty messed up. 

     And as far as the image, although all 3 bills have a section articulating that neither the woman nor the physician will be penalized if she looks away, it still requires that the image be placed in her line of sight. So instead of choosing to view it, she chooses not to view it. It’s a small distinction, but I think it’s a really, really important one. 

  • micah-steffes

    Thanks for pointing that out– I didn’t realize that the same brilliant mind that who came up with something that underestimates women so grievously pitched this curveball, too.


    And as far as saying a mouthful, how could I say any less? The degree of paternalism played out in this whole thing is colossally upsetting. At the bottom of Texas’s bill, after all of the sections/stipulations/shackles, section 7 states simply, "The purpose of this Act is to protect the health and safety of women."