Nearly 99% of women went ahead with an
abortion after voluntarily viewing an
ultrasound image of the foetus beforehand, according to a large new US
Based on medical records for more than 15 000 women seeking
abortion at Los Angeles Planned Parenthood clinics, researchers found that only
a small fraction of the women changed their minds after seeing the image.
"This study was motivated in large part by the current
political and popular interest in what role ultrasound viewing plays in women's
decisions about abortion," said one of the authors, Katrina Kimport at the
University of California San Francisco School of Medicine.
Ten states have enacted laws that require doctors to perform
ultrasounds before abortions, and three of those require the woman to view the
image during the ultrasound. The others require doctors to offer women the
option of viewing it.
A 2011 North Carolina ultrasound law, considered one of the
strictest in the nation, was struck down by a federal judge earlier this month
because it forced doctors to explain the image while showing it to the patient.
The US District Court held that forced speech to be unconstitutional.
Advocates for ultrasound laws base the requirement on the
idea that showing a woman the image of her foetus might cause her to have a
change of heart about terminating the pregnancy.
Kimport said there's been a lot of discussion about what
effects viewing would have on women who are seeking or considering abortions,
but there was very little research on what actually happens. "We were
interested in bringing in an empirical perspective to these
conversations," she told Reuters Health.
The researchers reviewed medical records from 15 575 visits
at 19 Planned Parenthood clinics in Los Angeles during 2011. These facilities
routinely perform ultrasounds before abortion procedures and regularly ask the
patients if they want to see the images. It's also standard practice to ask
each patient how confident she is about her decision to terminate the
The right decision
Responses to both of these questions are noted in the
patient's electronic medical record, according to the researchers.
Kimport and her colleagues analysed those records and found
that most women (85.4%) said they were certain they had made the right decision
to have the abortion. A smaller number (7.4%) were classified as having medium
or low levels of certainty about getting the procedure.
Although all of the women included in the study had
ultrasounds, less than half (42.5%) chose to see the image. A total of 98.8% of
the planned abortions took place. Among women who did not view their
ultrasounds, 99% went through with the procedure. Among those who did view the
images, 98.4% of the women had abortions.
medical abortions are safe