Twenty states in the U.S. have enacted laws that encourage or require the use of ultrasound on pregnant women, including Alabama, Louisiana and Mississippi which require abortion providers to conduct an ultrasound and offer women a chance to view it. However, the state of Oklahoma took the controversial practice a step further in late April—they overrode a veto by Governor Brad Henry and enacted a law requiring abortion doctors to provide pregnant women with an ultrasound image and a detailed oral description of the embryo or fetus. Even though a state judge stayed the requirement pending a suit filed by two abortion providers, the measure has spurred heated debate about the impact of ultrasound laws. Studies of the issue, which are rare, found that viewing the sonogram did not usually cause women to reverse their decision to abort; some even said the images reassured their decision, saying “I couldn’t see arms or a face.” But a spokesperson for Focus on the Family says ultrasound use in abortion procedures represents the “ultimate example of informed consent.” The Oklahoma law exempts women who need an abortion for emergency medical reasons but does not allow exceptions for rape or incest victims.
The New York Times 5/27/10