Abortion-seeking women want the option to view their ultrasounds

Abortion-seeking women want the option to view their ultrasounds

(Secular Pro-Life) Research finds that women seeking abortion believe providers should offer them the option to view the ultrasound. But providers don’t always do so, and abortion advocacy groups (Planned Parenthood Action, NARAL, ACOG) oppose measures requiring providers to do so.

Please note I’m not referring to legislation saying women must view ultrasounds. I’m referring to legislation requiring medical personnel offer women the option to view their ultrasounds — an opportunity they can accept or decline. 

Research Showing Desire for Ultrasound Options

Women do want to be offered this option. In this UK study, 72.6% of women seeking abortion chose to view the ultrasound, and of that group, 86.3% found it a positive experience. Interviewees recommended this choice be offered to every woman.

In another study, when patients seeking abortion were offered the opportunity to view the ultrasound, 42.5% chose to do so. Most women in the study had high decision certainty about the abortion, and the ultrasound didn’t measurably change their minds. For the women who reported medium or low decision certainty, though, “viewing was significantly associated with deciding to continue the pregnancy.” 

It’s not true all providers routinely offer this option. In another UK study, 1 of 4 women who didn’t see the ultrasound said they would’ve liked to, but about half of ultrasonographers thought women shouldn’t view due to “possible psychological effects.” 

Having to ask to view the ultrasound is different than having providers offer the option. In this study, some of the women wanted to view the ultrasound, but the provider didn’t offer and the women “did not feel they had the right to ask.” Some women peeked at the ultrasound screen when the provider was turned away, curious but generally feeling they weren’t supposed to see it. All women in the study reported wanting the choice to view the ultrasound (even if they chose not to), and they wanted providers “to engage in dialogue about viewing the image or not.” 

Abortion Supporters Actively Oppose the Ultrasound Option

Despite women wanting the opportunity to view the ultrasound and providers sometimes failing to offer it, abortion advocacy groups oppose legislation requiring women be given this option. 

Here, Planned Parenthood says they oppose bills requiring providers offer women the chance to see the ultrasound because it’s “legislating the conversation” between doctors and patients.

It also quotes the ACOG, claiming bills that require providers to offer women the opportunity to view their ultrasounds would “compromise the integrity of the patient-physician relationship.” 

Similarly, NARAL’s publication regarding “forced-ultrasound legislation” objects not only to laws requiring ultrasounds be performed or viewed, but also to laws requiring providers offer women the opportunity to view the ultrasound.

This New York Times article (from 2018, pre-Dobbs) contrasted California (left) and Mississippi (right) in terms of abortion restrictions. One “restriction” listed was “Your provider will ask if you want to see the ultrasound, receive a copy of the image, or hear the heartbeat.” The graphic also includes a note explaining “the provider must ask a patient if she wants to see the image.”

The Disconnect Between Abortion Supporters and Abortion-Seeking Women

Women seeking abortion want not only the option to view their ultrasounds, but for providers to proactively offer and discuss this option. Yet the pro-choice side considers legislation requiring providers to do so an “abortion restriction.” There seems to be a disconnect here, and one necessary to address.

Editor's note: This article was published by Secular Pro-Life and is reprinted with permission.

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