In a win for women’s rights, a federal judge in Indiana struck down a state law requiring that women receive an ultrasound at least 18 hours before receiving an abortion.
The state law replaced a prior statute that required women to get an ultrasound before having an abortion, but did not specify when. The new mandate would have forced women to make at least two separate trips to the clinics—which was ruled to be an undue burden particularly for low-income women who would have to travel to the clinics and then pay for lodging and miss additional time off work.
The basis for an ultrasound law comes from the paternalistic idea that women who are getting abortions (many of whom are already mothers) do not really understand what they are doing. The thinking behind this law is that a woman must be forced to see the image of her fetus, have its developing organs pointed out by a doctor and listen to its heartbeat—because only then can she wrap her mind around the gravity of what she’s doing and see the error in her ways.
Except here’s the thing: It doesn’t work. A study cited in the Indiana ruling found that 98.4 percent of women who view their ultrasounds still go through with their abortions, compared to 99 percent of women who did not view ultrasounds.
The reason it doesn’t work is because women do understand what they’re doing. More than 60 percent of women who have an abortion in the United States already have at least one child. They understand what it takes to bring a child into this world and raise him/her. They understand the time, energy, attention and money that it requires. And even for the 40 percent who are not mothers, they too understand that it is not the right time for their lives or the choice for their bodies to go through with their pregnancies—for one reason or another that is really no one’s business.
That’s why the overwhelming majority of women who are forced to watch ultrasounds of their fetuses (a measure that seems to serve no purpose other than as punishment) continue to go through with their abortions. They understand what they’re doing, and they don’t need to be enlightened by a bunch of anti-abortion men who will never have the chance of becoming pregnant themselves.
And who do we have to thank for that original ultrasound law in Indiana? Vice President Mike Pence, who signed the bill into law as Indiana governor in March 2016; a man who is so well-versed on women’s rights that he cannot eat alone with women other than his wife.