COMMENTARY

Ultrasounds promote informed decisions

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The New York Times reporter Nicholas D. Kristof wrote an opinion piece on March 3, 2012 titled “When States Abuse Women.” A member of this House of Representatives on a social media site then posted this opinion piece.

The content of the reporter’s piece was about woman seeking abortions and laws concerning required ultrasounds. In this article Kristof states “Rhode Island is considering Texas-style legislation bordering on state-sanctioned rape.” He rhetorically asks, “What else do you call it when states mandate invasive probes in women’s bodies?”

As the prime sponsor of the Rhode Island Legislation I challenge the reporter to show me where an invasive probe into a women’s body is stated anywhere in this legislation.

Facts on the Rhode Island bill that were conveniently left out of the reporter’s piece:

FACT 1: R.I. General Law already mandates the physician or his or her authorized agent to inform a woman considering abortion of the probable gestational age of the fetus both at the time of first consultation and at the time the proposed abortion procedure will be performed.

The current proposed bill seeks to add this current requirement that the physician who is to perform the abortion or a certified technician working with the physician shall perform an obstetric ultrasound on the woman. … Note carefully, the physician or certified technician, not the state and not a rapist.

As quoted from the American College of Radiology and the Radiological Society of North America. “Ultrasound imaging is a noninvasive medical test.” - not the invasive probe Mr. Kristof leads his readers to believe.

Significantly, Mr. Kristof completely fails to mention that ultrasounds are typically performed on a woman before a woman is able to get an abortion:

In a 2003 study of Planned Parenthood and other independently owned abortion facilities, 99 percent of these clinics admitted that they either “always” or “sometimes” perform an ultrasound in association with a surgical abortion.

Further, it was stated that vaginal ultrasounds were “always” performed before the early surgical abortion at 83 percent of these sites, 16 percent “under certain conditions,” and only 1 percent “never” did them.

Additionally, the study revealed that after an abortion was performed, vaginal ultrasounds were also “always” performed at 26 percent of these sites, “under certain conditions” at 66 percent of these sites, and “never” at 8 percent.

“That’s just the medical standard,” said Adrienne Schreiber, an official at Planned Parenthood’s Washington, D.C., regional office. “To confirm the gestational age of the pregnancy, before any procedure is done, you do an ultrasound.”

Requiring an ultrasound to take place before an abortion is performed makes sense since it ensures that the mother is actually pregnant, determines the age and size of the baby, and aids in determining the location of the unborn child for either the vacuum machine or a needle used to end its life, if in fact a surgical abortion is decided upon. And in many abortion procedures, ultrasounds are used during the surgical abortion to ensure that the abortionist doesn’t physically harm the mother while they dismember the unborn child.

In short, ultrasounds are already being performed as part of most abortion procedures. And in those cases, my bill simply requires the abortionist to display these ultrasound images so that the woman may view them.

To those that ask why, I quote the U.S. Supreme Court: “To reduce the risk that a woman may elect an abortion, only to discover later, with devastating psychological consequences, that her decision was not fully informed.”

Now it may be possible that some abortions are still being performed in Rhode Island without an ultrasound having been performed. In these cases, if indeed there remain any, my bill would create a statutory mandate to perform an obstetric ultrasound, which, as we have seen, is a reasonable standard of care, and is a mandate that has been upheld by the U.S. Supreme Court.

But contrary to the wild assertions of Mr. Kristof, my bill does not specify what type of ultrasound should be performed, leaving this determination to the professional discretion of the licensed practitioner.

This legislation is a Pro-Women and Pro-Information piece of legislation. I will not allow a reporter that did not do his homework make it something it is not.

I have tried to contact Reporter Nicholas D Kristof at his office, on the site he lists for comments and on one of his social media sites. He has yet to return any of my messages requesting to speak with him.

Rep. Karen L. MacBeth is a Democrat member of the R.I. House of Representatives representing Cumberland District-52. This speech was delivered on March 7 on the floor of the R.I. House of Representatives in response to a March 3 op-ed by New York Times Columnist Nicholas Kristof. MacBeth is the primary sponsor of House Bill No. 7205 that would require that an ultrasound fetal image be made of every unborn child about to be to aborted for review by the woman seeking the abortion. The representative can reached at rep-macbeth@rilin.state.ri.us