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The Oklahoma Law and My Ultrasound

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Written by Martha Kempner for RHRealityCheck.org - News, commentary and community for reproductive health and justice.

On Tuesday, while the Oklahoma Legislature was voting to override a gubernatorial veto and reinstate a law requiring women to have ultrasounds before allowing them to have an abortion, I was, well, having an ultrasound. This is not the first state law that requires this procedure prior to abortion but this one takes it one step further and mandates that the doctor or technician set up a monitor so the woman can see it and that he or she describe the heart, limbs, and organs of the fetus. The law does not make an exception for pregnancies caused by rape or incest.

Perhaps, it was because I’d just gone through the procedure or perhaps it’s just the pregnancy hormones raging through my system but the thought of a woman being forced to go through this when all she wanted was to exercise her legal and moral right to terminate the pregnancy made me cry. That kind of manipulation is cruel.

My husband tried to console me by saying that I shouldn’t worry, at those very early ultrasounds the images are so murky and the fetus has so little resemblance to a human baby that it will not successfully convince any woman to change her mind. He may be right – at my first scan, the fetus was more alien than baby. Then again, I could see and hear a heartbeat, and despite the fact that the fetus was smaller than a grape, the magnified images let me see a tiny developing spine. We’ve all watched those stereotypical scenes in movies and sitcoms where a couple goes to the OB and are chatting, fighting, texting, or otherwise not paying attention until the sound of the heartbeat stops them cold and brings tears to their eyes. Clearly, changing the mind of women who are seeking abortions is exactly what the lawmakers are hoping to do but I’m not sure that whether they succeed matters. Just trying is degrading and damaging to women.

I wanted to be pregnant, so for me the goal of the 8-week scan was to hear a heartbeat and confirm that this was a viable pregnancy. After all, at that stage of pregnancy one doesn’t look pregnant or necessarily feel any different. It was heartening to learn that the home pregnancy test was right. I wouldn’t exactly say that it was an emotional experience for me but the thought “okay, there really is something in there” kept going through my head. In my opinion, this isn’t a thought that women seeking an abortion in early pregnancy should be forced to have.

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