Women in South Carolina forced to see their foetus in-utero

// 25 March 2007

A pregnant woman wishing to terminate her pregnancy in South Carolina would be forced to view ultrasound images of her foetus before completing the abortion, if the recent bill proposed by the lawmakers comes to pass.

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A recent report by the Associated Press claims that although there are some states in the US that provide women making this decision with ultrasound photographs, South Carolina would be alone in making it mandatory for women to look at these images before finalising their decision.

Proponents of the law believe that this will reduce the abortion rate and encourage women to consider other avenues such as adoption and in some instances deciding to keep the child themselves. This bill would enhance the existing legislation in South Carolina, which requires a woman to be fully informed of foetal development and given at least one hour to think about her options before finalising her decision. Under the new law women would be required to provide evidence they had looked at the ultrasound images in writing.

Oran Smith, president of the Palmetto Family Council and supporter of this addition to state law, remarks that women need “as much background as possible when they’re making decisions,” but is this likely to help women who are already struggling to make a difficult decision? Or is it just a new form of bureaucratic bullying?

The new law is likely to provide a new form of intimidation for women seeking medical attention, and looks set to further increase the stigma that is attached to abortion. As women are forced to evaluate the validity of their own judgement, and doctors who are supposed to remain impartial furrow their brows and shake their heads for a full sixty-minutes as their patients hold ultrasound photos in clammy hands and search for an answer as to what to do, where exactly are they getting the support they need from?

Nancy Keenan, president of NARL pro-choice America, can foresee the negative ramifications of this policy:

“The women of South Carolina would rather talk to their doctor about information they need to make private, personal medical decisions. This is not a place for interference by politicians.”

Keenan is right in her assessment of the situation, and in her questioning of the legitimacy of a law introduced by suited fat-cats sat behind desks, who are not only far removed from the world in which this is likely to operate, but who are also unable to sympathise with the fears and uncertainties experienced by a woman who finds out she is expecting owing to their complete lack of a female reproductive system.

This is just the latest in the abortion argument, and although this is happening in the states, it’s not impossible that such an attitude will extend across the pond further fuelling the already volatile debate between pro-life and pro-choice activists. But what, in the long-term, does such law hope to achieve? The more women are unfairly judged for making the choice to terminate their pregnancy for whatever reasons, the less likely we will be to use medical channels to get the help we need, and the more stringent these laws may come, the more likely it is we will be forced to procure back street abortions to avoid the negative social implications of making the decision. And surely, a return to the days when women died from internal infections and were forced to hide their pregnancies from their families is something that nobody should want, but if things begin to continue along the same vein it’s likely that many of us will sadly feel that we have no other option.

Photo by Bjorn, shared under a Creative Commons License

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