Women Forced To View Their Ultrasounds Will Have Abortions Anyway


A massive new study has disproved the common conservative notion that women who want abortions are idiots who don’t know what a pregnancy is; even after looking at ultrasounds, more than 98% of them went ahead with the procedure. And the ones who did change their minds were among a tiny sliver of abortion-seeking women who aren’t so sure about it in the first place.

Researchers analyzed 15,575 medical recordsprovided by an Los Angeles abortion clinic. Before their procedures, patients were first asked to indicate how sure they were about having an abortion, and were then rated by how sure they were in indicating their level of confidence (a sort of double-layered assessment of certainty). 92.6% of patients fell in the high decision certainty category, which means they indicated that they were positive they wanted abortions and didn’t seem angry, ambivalent, sad, or depressed about it, and the remaining 7.4% of patients had either medium or low certainty. This means that, contrary to the popular pop culture Moping In The Abortion Clinic Waiting Room She’s A Brick And I’m Drowning Slowly motif, for most women, having an abortion isn’t exactly a gleeful trip to the fro-yo store, but it’s certainly not the universal emotional tragedy that TV and movies, for some reason, have rehashed so much that it’s become a trope. This isn’t to say that women shouldn’t feel bad about having an abortion, just that the vast majority of the women involved in this study didn’t.

After patients were admitted, they were given ultrasounds and asked if they wanted to see them. Only 42.5% of the women said they wanted to see the images, and of those, 98.4% went ahead and had abortions, anyway, as opposed to 99% of the women who didn’t look at the pictures. But here’s where it gets really interesting: every woman who backed out after looking at the ultrasound images of her pregnancy was already in the “low” or “medium” confidence category, which, let me remind you, only consisted of 7.4% of women in the study.

As Slate’s Katy Waldman points out, it’s worth noting that some women seeking abortions — albeit a very tiny percentage of those women — are swayed by viewing images of their pregnancies, which is what conservative lawmakers ostensibly hope will happen. But Waldman also notes that while women are completely within their rights to request to look at their ultrasounds and to change their minds, laws forcing women to look at ultrasounds before they have an abortion — laws that have been enacted in three states — directly conflict with what women would do if given their druthers. Because legislators can’t technically force women to carry a pregnancy to term, they instead pass laws that force women to look at images they don’t particularly want to view. Either way, women are forced. And that’s pretty fucked up.

The most important takeaway from this research is that women know what pregnancy is, they know what abortion is, and looking at ultrasound images can’t change their minds or make them feel bad about a decision in which they have high confidence. In fact, I’m pretty sure abortion has a higher approval rating than the Congressmen trying to restrict it. Maybe abortion should consider running for Senate.

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