Florida’s Abortion Ultrasound Law

Governor Charlie Crist just Stupaked Florida, vetoing a law which would have required women to get an ultrasound before having an abortion. Three things:

1. Ultrasound Laws Should Transcend Abortion Politics

First, if you’re genuinely pro-choice, you should support this sort of measure. When people say that they’re for choice in any area besides abortion, they mean informed choice. A choice without information is like choosing random doors on “Let’s Make a Deal.” It’s arbitrary. “Choice” without information is meaningless.

If I were an advocate for consumer nutritional choices, I’d be pushing for having nutrition facts on the side of goods sold in the store, and maybe even on restaurant menus. Would that keep some people from having alfredo? Certainly. But only because it causes them to confront the costs of the choice they were about to make. This is the same reason that fancy restaurants often don’t list the prices, particularly on desserts and alcoholic drinks — they fear consumers making a rational and informed choice, since they’re trying to sell four ounces of wine for twenty bucks, and another five for the scoop of ice cream.

And the decision to have an abortion is something of a lot more significance than ordering the alfredo. Even if you’re pro-choice, and deny that it’s murder, it’s still the deprivation of what would otherwise be the life of your child (or “potential child”). It’s also a decision which the woman likely feels torn about, and one which, if she makes it rashly, she may come to severely regret later: a regret which not infrequently takes the form of severe depression and despair. So even if one’s sole concern in the abortion dialogue is what’s good for women, it’s hard to imagine a world in which intentionally keeping women on the facts of important medical decisions is “helping” them. Rather, that’s the very sort of paternalism which pro-choicers frequently accuse pro-lifers of.

It’s worth noting, I suppose, that if you go in for eye surgery, you’ll be given pages worth of detailed information about what is about to happen to you. Why? So you can make an informed choice, and be aware of the risks of your action. That’s not paternalism. That’s treating medical patients like adult human beings capable of making reasonable judgments when presented with evidence.

2. Ultrasound Laws Don’t Violate Women’s Privacy Rights in Any Meaningful Way.

Nevertheless, “Democrats and some female Republican lawmakers said the bill invaded women’s privacy.” This, of course, is sheer nonsense: I can’t think of a single logical rationale which says that a doctor performing an ultrasound on a woman he’s going to performing an abortion on violates her privacy with the ultrasound. He’s just previewing where he’s going to “operating.” If the abortion is surgical, the doctor may even use ultrasound equipment to be sure he’s successfully killed the fetus.

And the state can require x-rays before operations without violating privacy interests: it’s not like they’re broadcasting the insides of your body on closed-circuit TV throughout the hospital. X-rays and ultrasound are routinely used medical techniques. I try and give my opponents the benefit of the doubt, but this has all the makings of a meaningless soundbite. The pro-choicers quoted are seemingly just trying to flare up some tempers against pro-lifers, but they’re not actually forming a serious (or defensible) argument.

3. Ultrasounds Reduce Abortions

The CSM article recounting Crist’s betrayal notes:

Crist, who has three sisters, has repeatedly called himself “pro-life” but often has said he prefers changing hearts to changing laws. He did so again in the veto message.
“Such measures do not change hearts, which is the only true and effective way to ensure that a new life coming into the world is loved, cherished and receives the care that is deserved,” Crist wrote.

It’s interesting that the Monitor would let this absurdity by without batting an eye. After all, an opinion piece they ran in January noted that, “After watching an ultrasound of an abortion last year, Abby Johnson resigned from her position as director of Planned Parenthood in Bryan, Texas, and joined a pro-life group. ” Think about it. Not just some wide-eyed young girl going in for an abortion. An experienced abortionist who’d performed numerous abortions, and was a director of a Planned Parenthood. She’d lived in denial about the humanity of the fetus, and upon seeing the grisly procedure, couldn’t justify it anymore.

Now, so far as I know, none of the ultrasound laws require women to watch an abortion (their own or anyone else’s). They just require (on in some cases, permit) women to see their baby, alive and well. But given that the only cogent argument that the pro-choice side made in anything I’ve read (and I actually looked for some line of reasoning here) was that women are already informed, it’s worth calling this out as malarky. If Abby Johnson wasn’t informed on what was really going on, chances are, the scared high schooler walking into the clinic isn’t more medically informed. But even if that’s true, it would just mean that the ultrasound was unneccesary, right? Is there a risk of over-informing medical patients? Or are pro-choicers suddenly really fiscally conservative?

And, of course, the experiences of countless women besides Abby Johnson show that Crist is just politicking here. Ultrasound is one of the few pro-life tactics which not only reduces abortions, but does so by changing women’s minds (as opposed to just making abortions harder to get). A Focus on the Family survey found that some 84% of women decided against having an abortion after seeing the ultrasound. Even if we assume that Focus on the Family’s numbers are skewed high, Crist’s claim is that 0% of hearts are changed, a far more absurd proposition (particularly since there are plenty of available anecdotal testimonies from the women themselves).

Finally, bringing this back to the first point, the women who don’t have abortions because of ultrasound are choosing life. Is there anyone who will openly admit that this isn’t the outcome that they want? Pro-lifers, though they’re against abortion whether the woman wants it or not, obviously prefer when she doesn’t want to have one. It’s a healthier environment in which to bring a baby, obviously. And pro-choicers, at least the sane ones, tend to at least personally prefer life over abortion, which is why you get slogans like “safe, legal, and rare.” So women having their hearts changed to embrace their fetus/baby/whatever seems like the outcome which should please all put the genuinely pro-abortion.

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