TX Sonogram Law Supporter: “I Would Not Have Had An Abortion If I Had Seen A Sonogram”

This past Wednesday, January 4, in New Orleans, the battle over the Texas “Sonogram Law” waged on.

Texas Solicitor General Jonathan Mitchell faced off with Jennifer Rikelman, an attorney from New York’s Center for Reproductive Rights, before a panel of three judges from the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals. The issue at hand? A temporary partial injunction ordered by Justice Sam Sparks in Austin this summer claiming the law violated the free speech rights of abortionists.

The bill, which was signed into law by Texas governor and current Republican presidential candidate Rick Perry last year, would require doctors to show abortion patients an ultrasound of their unborn babies, describe certain attributes of the fetus, such as its size, and allow the mother to hear the fetal heartbeat. While most of the law was temporarily struck down by Sparks, certain portions, such as a 24-hour waiting period, were not enjoined.

As a proud native Texan and Dallas resident, I have written about this case several times, most recently in September when I attended, incognito, a speech by Center for Reproductive Rights president Nancy Northup, hosted by Planned Parenthood North Texas, in which the case – and others like it around the country — was discussed at length.

From the Associated Press:

“The statute is as clear as can be that patients may decline to view sonogram images and may decline to listen to the fetal heartbeat,” Mitchell said.

The judges pressed Rikelman to explain how [the] law exceeds the state’s authority to regulate the medical profession.

“How do you draw the line?” Judge Patrick Higginbotham asked.

“We would draw the line at what is medically necessary,” Rikelman responded. “The government shouldn’t be able to interject itself in our conversations with physicians in that way.”

I recently had surgery. Before I went under general anesthesia, the surgeon — as required by law — had to tell me all the awful things that might happen to me. The surgeon himself had to tell me I might have a stroke or die under general anesthesia. I won’t kill you with suspense — I lived. But I think we have a pretty clear case here of the government mandating speech on behalf of doctors.

Was it medically necessary that I have this information? No. Knowing I might have a stroke did not keep me alive. But it informed me. I had to sign on the dotted line saying I had been informed of the risks involved, and that I consented to the procedure anyway.

Sonogram laws inform women. They don’t restrict abortion in any way. A woman can still have an abortion for any old reason at all. But the law makes sure she knows what she is doing. Unfortunately, many of them don’t.

Case in point:

A group of the law’s supporters traveled to New Orleans for Wednesday’s hearing. Nona Ellington, 43, of Houston, said she wasn’t given the choice of having a sonogram before she had an abortion in 1983 at age 15. Ellington said she was told her fetus was a “blob of tissue” before she had the abortion, which she blames for five subsequent miscarriages.

“I would not have had an abortion if I had seen a sonogram and heard the baby’s heartbeat,” she said after the hearing.

Ellington has also said in public testimony that her abortion led her to depression and suicide attempts, and that because of the damage done to her body by the abortion, she was never able to conceive.

Who is CRR — and other detractors of the law — trying to protect? What harm will come to a woman from knowing the truth? Don’t they want women to make an informed choice? Is their mission really about empowering women, and if so, what will they lose by making sure she has all the information she needs?

Let’s say a woman sees a sonogram, hears a heartbeat, and says, “Oh wow, I didn’t realize this was really a baby I was going to destroy. I don’t want to have an abortion now.” Who loses in that case? The woman goes away happy because she is going to keep her baby. The baby, needless to say, is certainly better off. Who loses, and what does he or she lose?

The abortion doctor and the clinic lose. And what do they lose? Money. Nothing else. They have not been harmed in any way, except they will not be performing that abortion. The woman, on the other hand, has gained a child she would not have had. The child has gained a life he would have lost.

Abortion advocates such as the people at CRR claim they are helping women, but all they’re doing is denying them knowledge and therefore power. Pretty important, considering they claim they’re all about empowering women.

How does denying a woman information about her developing fetus empower her?

And they have the nerve to call the Sonogram Law condescending.

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  • JAFERD

    I am an ER doctor who routinely does bedside ultrasounds to document fetal development, heartrate, etc. I have personally seen hundreds of mothers faces and hearts change right in front of my eyes as they see the babies’ hearts beating and see arms and legs kicking. We see heart beating at 6 weeks from the last period, about 4 weeks post conception.

    • JAFERD

      People seem surprised to see that much so soon. All organs are formed at 9 weeks, 7 weeks post conception. We can see kicking, waving arms, sucking thumb long before 1st trimester is up.

    • Margie

      After thinking I was pregnant and then having a miscarriage at six weeks and never seeing a heartbeat at all (was blighted ovum) I was overjoyed to see my son’s little beating heart on the ultra-sound at six weeks…I did not know at the time that you see the heart beat first before arms or legs or anything…truly amazing!

    • Anonymous

      As a physician you are not troubled by the fact that the Texas law requires patients to forfeit their right to consent and submit to an invasive, non-medical intervention against their will as a condition to receiving proper medical care?

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Sarah-Silcox-Martin/1460419094 Sarah Silcox Martin

    I saw my first son on ultrasound 5 weeks after conception. While he was not moving he had a heartbeat I could see and hear. He had a face (you could even see where the orbits of the eyes were developing and a mouth) and while no fingers and toes he did have stubby arms and legs. He looked human. With my second son I had an ultrasound at 8 weeks. He was twirling and kicking and rubbing his face with his hands. It was amazing! They were so little, my boys, and I wasn’t even showing yet but they were already clearly human. Women need to know the truth.

  • Anonymous

    It would also prevent what Carol Everett exposed as a practice of the abortion industry- where they tell a woman that she is indeed pregnant, when she really isn’t, and they perform an “abortion,” and the woman still suffers the emotional consequences.  I saw it in Blood Money, which I highly recommend if you haven’t seen it. 

    • Letscook1

       Actually they don’t. I have gone to Planned Parenthood for the past 10 yeas of my life (I am 26 now) and I have never had a positive pregnancy test once. They test you everytime even if you are going in for a UTI.

      • Anonymous

        Watch Blood Money.  Just because it didn’t happen to you doesn’t mean it doesn’t happen.  This movie features “industry insiders” spilling the secrets of their trade.  It’s undeniable that PP lies to women.  Maybe they were honest with you, but there are countless others who have a completely different story.

        • Letscook1

           I have been going to PP for over 10 years now in several different states in different locations. (I just did a count and believe I have gone to roughly half a dozen different PPs). I have never been lied to. Neither have any of the other countless of women I know who have gone.

          • Anonymous

            What do you want me to say?  Congratulations??  Just because an abortionist kills babies, doesn’t mean he goes around killing all babies, does it?  A child molester doesn’t molest every child he meets, right?  Liars lie to whomever they need to.  If you have patronized that many PP’s across this great nation, you are clearly already in their clutches.  They don’t need to sell you on anything!

          • Letscook1

            “Clucthes” lol. The people who work at PP are not evil. They are compassionate, doctors, nurses, and nurse practitioners who are often working for a reduced fee or even free. I support PP because they are a great organization to go to and support so many low income women who need health screenings. They offer low, affordable birth control without all the bells and whistles of going to a hospital. It is also great if you don’t have health insurance, something that conservatives oppose. I have been sexually active since I was 16 and I am now 26. I have never had an unplanned pregnancy thanks to PP. That is more than I can say for a “crisis pregnancy center” or a church. I haven’t seen any churches doing pap smears or checking blood pressure.

          • Anonymous

            Do you know anything about the principles on which this so-called benevolent charitable organization was founded?  You might want to do a little research before you start publicly extolling its virtues.  Read, ‘Margaret Sanger: Father of Modern Society.’  You might be surprised, or you might be a racist eugenicist who happily patronizes and promotes such evil.  It’s a book pretty much written in her own words.  (In case you didn’t know, Margaret Sanger is the foundress of PP.)  I also noted you wrote that you have been sexually active since you were 16 as if that’s some kind of badge of honor, something of which you are proud.  You were a mere child, and if PP was giving you the means to follow such a lifestyle, all the more reason to fear them and their agenda.  I will pray for you.

  • María Inés Benítez Formoso

    Let us set this straight: there is no patient with ascariasis who would refrain from having the worms removed out of him. Why is that? Because Ascaris lumbricoides IS a parasyte, and that is well known even among the poorest and less educated. From where, then, springs that pathological fear of the abortionists towards the ultrasound and a fetus’s heartbeat? If it is no more than a parasyte, who on Earth would be that mad to believe that any woman would feel compassion towards it, just because she sees it alive and kicking and listens to its heart? No one would hesitate to have inestinal worms removed out of his/her body, only because the doctor shows him/her a living specimen before the treatment.

    That fear springs from the very same place as the fear from those who have everything to lose with information, because they have everything to hide as well. They know they are lying, and that they do it ridiculously. They know a fetus is not a parasyte, and because of that they know, with the very same certainty, that this bond which none of us would ever develop with a parasyte, can in fact be established between a pregnant woman and a fetus. Or an embryo. Which, needles to say, are not parasytes at all. And in this ecuation, there is only one person who ends up losing and is desperated about that: the one who gets payed for performing the abortion.

  • oldmanbob

    Talk about putting ladies down and trying to make them dumb.  I’m a horse breeder and I get the same leval of information about vet jobs as I get about what the human docs are about to do for me and too me.  But then I’m a guy so keeping me stupid does not pay.

    Women should be able to get the same leval of information that I get for my critters.

  • Sparky

    There is so much wrong with this I hardly know where to begin.  But let me try.  First your doctor shared with you the risks of surgery because that was the ethical thing to do.  A sonogram provides little if any information about the risks of an abortion to the woman.  There are indeed risks, as there are with any surgery, but they are not conveyed in a sonogram but rather in the medical release that all patients read and sign before undergoing the procedure.  There are also risks in carrying a pregnancy to term;  in fact they are far greater than in terminating the pregnancy through abortion.  As for your Ms Ellington, it sounds like she made a decision that was not right for her.  People often make decisions they later regret.  It’s unfortunate, but it happens and like too many people, it appears she’s willing to assign blame to anyone other than to herself.  I’m pretty sure she could have obtained a sonogram had she asked for one.  In fact, today PP routinely conducts sonograms prior to surgery to determine fetal age.  She should seek counseling so she can accept responsibility for her decisions and learn to lead a productive and healthy life.  Moreover the suggestion that abortion providers are motivated only by profit is not only speculative but simply wrong.  Many provide extensive counseling to help the women who seek their services determine if the decision they’re about to make is right for them expressly to avoid the situation Ms Ellington finds herself in.  I have been in a number of clinics, and I have never once seen a woman chained to the floor.   But yes the real problem with laws like these is that they seek to interject the values of others into the doctor/patient decision process for no reason that improves care or outcome.  All they do is increase health care costs for those who in many cases can least afford them.  If a woman wants to have a sonogram before having an abortion and that causes her to change her mind, then all the better.  But that should be her decision to make in consultation with her health care provider.  It should not in any event be the dictate of the state.

    • bubbalouwee

      There are two patients, the mother and her baby.  The information is very important for the welfare of the second patient, the baby. 

    • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_LEEG4VVVHLCKLMWTSRG4L6PHOI D m

      Problem is, most do not have a “health care provider”.  Many go out, buy a home pregnancy test, find out they are pregnant, and go to people like planned parenthood who inform the woman that she is just ridding her body of a parasitic blob of cells! 
      Also, if they routinely perform these ultrasounds to verify fetal age, how does it add to healthcare cost to turn the monitor around & show the woman the age, size, and development of the baby????

    • María Inés Benítez Formoso

      “There are also risks in carrying a pregnancy to term;  in fact they are
      far greater than in terminating the pregnancy through abortion.”

      Wrong statement. First and foremost, because there is simply no epidemiological evidence to support it (sorry, the whole evidence-based medicine makes us Med students quite a lot demanding on this issue). Second: it is anthropologically ridiculous even to suggest that a species’s form of reproduction would have deletereal effects to it. If there was any evidence, I would encourage you to share it with us; but I am very much afraid there is none. “Brilla por su ausencia” as we say here.

      Let us move forward into the actual evidence, then: the link between breast cancer and abortion has been established in many studies and meta-analysis, and the pathological events that lead to it are the following: hormonal signals tell the cells of the mammary gland to proliferate, and the do so in order to prepare for the birth of the baby. When those hormonal signals are interrupted (that is, when the pregnancy is unnaturaly terminated), the cells are suddenly left proliferating but without any regulation to that process. Uncontrolled cell proliferation is what in Medicine we call the preceding injury that leads into a neoplasm – cancer for friends. On the other hand, carrying a pregnancy to term (needles to say, with
      adecuate obstetric controls) is a well-demonstrated protective factor
      against breast-cancer, because the very same hormonal signals stabilize the mammary gland’s cells.

      Also, induced abortion as been linked to a form of post-traumatic syndrome, named post-abortion syndrome. Dr Priscilla Cole’s meta-analysis, published in the British Journal of Psychiatry (Abortion and mental health, quantitative synthesis and analysis of research published 1995-2009), is quite enlightening about this issue.

      Please do take the time to make sure you have any actual epidemiological evidence before making those statements. That was quite irresponsible.

      • Sparky

        US Maternal Mortality rates in 2008:
        https://www.cia.gov/library/publications/the-world-factbook/rankorder/2223rank.html?countryName=Australia&countryCode=as&regionCode=aus&rank=156#as

        World Abortion Related Deaths rates (The US is included in “Developed”)
        http://www.guttmacher.org/pubs/ib_0599.html

        Abortion link to Breast Cancer
        http://www.cancer.gov/cancertopics/causes/ere/workshop-report

        Overview of abortion in US
        http://www.guttmacher.org/pubs/fb_induced_abortion.html#12

        Overview of abortion for internist
        http://www.annals.org/content/140/8/620.full

        Tell us Maria – what institution are you attending?  I would find that useful information when I’m reviewing the CV of my next health care provider.

        • María Inés Benítez Formoso

          OH-HO-HOOOO, this is going to be long so have a seat…

          Sparky, please note that none of the links you posted above states at any moment that carrying a pregnancy to term brings more risks than terminating it. That is why I insist – and must do so – that your former statement is wrong. Really, I read them all and no single word supporting your statement is found. You might want to do the same before posting alledged evidence that does not actually support what you want to prove.

          Also, note that the comparison provided by the CIA is a comparison between a developed country and many, many, maaaany countries with critical humanitarian issues. It is only natural that maternal mortality in those countries is way higher than it is in the USA… actually, it does not even provide any guide about which criteria they considered. Besides, you are asuming that the lower maternal mortality rates are due to the legal status of abortion. To prove abortion (or anything) as a protective factor to maternal health you need to prove so with epidemiological evidence. Regarding this issue, one of the most respected epidemiologists is Dr Elard Koch, from the University of Chile, who has conducted several research about maternal mortality. What he found out was that legal abortion was not responsible in any way for the improvement on maternal health; the actual improvement came from a better access of women to proper education and attending regular obstetric controls during pregnancy. Not only abortion had no influence on the low maternal mortality rates (since abortion is completely illegal in Chile), but also, maternal death rates started to decrease before abortion became completely illegal (short historical background: abortion was legal in Chile but was declared completely illegal afterwards).

          Oooook, let us head over the other ones: One of the links you posted from the Guttmacher Institute (which by the way has a notorious conflict of interest in the issue of abortion), states the following:

          “In Latin America, as many as 21% of maternal deaths are estimated to
          be associated with unsafe abortion.”
          Now, I might have missed something while I was reading, but where exactly did they get those numbers? The references at the end of the article quote absolutely no epidemiological source from any South American country. And at least on what concerns the case of my own country, where abortion is illegal, no maternal deaths have been informed because of illegal abortion since the year 2007. That year, only 6 maternal deaths were informed, with only 2 of them because of illegal abortion. For the record, the Guttmacher Institute does not clarify that illegal abortion is not the first cause of maternal mortality: the first are hypertensive pregnancy disorders, non-treated STDs, and non or inadecuately controlled chronic diseases such as arterial hypertension and diabetes mellitus.

          Next one: the other link from the Guttmacher Institue only offers an epidemiological profile about the kind of women who seek an abortion. It does not state – not once, really – that carrying a pregnancy to term is more dangerous to their health than terminating it.

          The link regarding breast-cancer risk was less boring, fortunately. The summary, for instance, states the following:

          “Epidemiologic Findings
          – Early age at first term birth is related to lifetime decrease in breast cancer risk. (1)- Increasing parity is associated with a long-term risk reduction, even when controlling for age at first birth. (1)
          – The
          additional long-term protective effect of young age at subsequent term
          pregnancies is not as strong as for the first term pregnancy. (1)”

          Eeerrr… well, their own evidence speaks for itself, does it not: there is strong evidence that (level 1) that carrying a pregnancy to term has a protective role against breast cancer. Let us move forward, though:

          “- A nulliparous woman has approximately the same risk as a woman with a first term birth around age 30. (1)”

          “- Breast cancer risk is transiently increased after a term pregnancy. (1)”
          Thus the importance of an adecuate lactance of at least 6 months (being the ideal 1-2 years). The mammary glands, as stated on the previous comment, recieve these hormonal signals so they cells proliferate preparing for the birth of the baby. Naturally, those signals start decreasing after childbirth; on the other hand, the period of lactation sends its own hormonal signals to the mammary tissue, thus regulating it. In fact, the findings quote the following:
          “- Long
          duration of lactation provides a small additional reduction in breast
          cancer risk after consideration of age at and number of term
          pregnancies. (1)”
          Again: a minimum of 6 months is recommended, being 1-2 years the ideal.

          “- Pregnancy-induced hypertension is associated with decreased breast cancer risk. (2)”

          This one made me quite a bit curious. I should perform deeper research on the issue, but for the moment being, the moderate strength of this evidence and being hypertensive pregnancy disorders the primary cause of maternal death, I would strongly suggest that we just keep on controlling pregnant women’s blood pressure and maintain them on adecuate levels.
          “- Induced abortion is not associated with an increase in breast cancer risk. (1)- Recognized spontaneous abortion is not associated with an increase in breast cancer risk. (1)”Oooohhh, there you are! I took the liberty to look for the references considered: regarding the link between induced abortion and breast cancer, they consideres references number 111, 116, and 117.

          111.-Induced abortion and risk for breast cancer: reporting (recall) bias in a Dutch case-control study.
          “A positive association was found in five studies, no association was
          found in six studies, and a negative association was found in the only
          cohort study. It is thought that part of the inconsistency of the
          reported results may be attributable to reporting (recall) bias, since
          all but two studies on induced abortion used the case-control design and
          were based only on information obtained from study subjects. In
          comparison with breast cancer case patients, healthy control subjects
          may be more reluctant to report on a controversial, emotionally charged
          subject such as induced abortion. Thus, differential underreporting may
          be a cause of spurious associations in case-control studies.”

          The very background states that the evidence was inconclusive, because the studies considered in the review were not quite accurate because of underreporting. Note also that out of 12 studies, they did find a positive association in 5 of them, while only ONE proved a negative association, and the remaining 6 could not conclude any association at all. I would have liked to read the 12 studies more carefully, but unfortunately, the full versions are not available unless you purchase them.

          116.-Abortions and breast cancer: record-based case-control study.
          “It has been suggested that abortions leave the breast epithelium in a
          proliferative state with an increased susceptibility to carcinogenesis. Results from previous studies of induced or spontaneous abortions and
          risk of subsequent breast cancer are contradictory, probably due to
          methodological considerations.”

          Again: methodological odds. Oh dear…

          117.-Breast cancer and abortion: collaborative reanalysis of data from 53
          epidemiological studies, including 83?000 women with breast cancer from
          16 countries.
          “INTERPRETATION: Pregnancies that end as a spontaneous or
          induced abortion do not increase a woman’s risk of developing breast
          cancer. Collectively, the studies of breast cancer with retrospective
          recording of induced abortion yielded misleading results, possibly
          because women who had developed breast cancer were, on average, more
          likely than other women to disclose previous induced abortions.”
          Oooook, let me set this straight: results are misleading between the studies considered in the meta-analysis, again, because of underreporting and inadecuate methodological design. Note also that this is a meta-analysis comparing an induced abortion with a spontaneous abortion.

          Honestly: I do appreciate that you took the time to google this out, but none of the links you provided did support your statement that carrying a pregnancy to term is more dangerous than terminating it. They do not provide either any evidence that abortion does not increase the risk of psychiatric disorders. And ultimately, the bare evidence they could provide regarding the issue of breast cancer (previously recognizing that their evidence was not very accurate because of underreporting and methodological odds in the design) was that, in the best of cases, induced abortion had no effect on it – none of them stated that it was healthier and protective against breast cancer compared to carrying a pregnancy to term, which in fact was indeed recognized as a protective factor.

          I am not sure whether you read all this before posting it as alledged evidence.
          If you did not, you should do so from now on: it is irresponsible to
          present as evidence something you have not even taken the time to read
          first. I am a religious person, I have nothing against faith, but being
          skeptical from time to time is a good things too: you should be critical
          with what you read (and needless to say, you should read it first!).

          I believe you do not need to worry about my CV because of two main reasons: the first is that I actually do want my patients to be alive and kicking and would not fail to inform them properly about their health; the second, that I intend to stay at this beloved country of mine. But you may very well count on me if you ever happen to find yourself in there and in need of a physician. If it is of any interest, I attend the Faculty of Medicine of the University of the Republic. If you speak Spanish, the not-so-friendly website is this: http://www.fmed.edu.uy

          • Sparky

            Oh Maria that’s rich :-)  What, you couldn’t get into Universidad de la Republica Facultad de Ingenieria?  Well don’t feel bad you could have gone to Universidad de la Rupublica Instituto Nacional de Enfermeria.  I mean even I will admit going to the 4,041st ranked school is better than going to the one ranked 11,736th.  In any event, thanks for the warning.  I can at least rest assured that I’m fairly safe so long as we both remain in our respective countries.  You will let me know if you change your mind though, right?

          • SMMelanson422

            Forgive me if I’m wrong, but this does not sound like a valid response to Maria’s comment. The intelligent way to respond is to do some research and gather information that proves her statements and observations false. Maybe because you couldn’t find any? I’m not surprised. Come back when you’ve got some information that actually holds water and can be backed by evidence and strong sources. Otherwise, you are just turning this into a purely emotional and opinionated argument… and when you do that… you lose. Sorry.

          • Sparky

            Had Maria made a more credible argument, I might have felt compelled to respond to her more seriously.  Unfortunately, in this debate there will always be people like Maria who lack the judgment to distinguish between real science conducted by credible sources and propaganda that simply affirms their own misguided views.  When one finds oneself arguing with such a person, trying to continue to make a cogent argument, in the words of Barney Franks, makes about as much sense as trying to argue with the dining room table, and like him, I have no interest in either.

          • María Inés Benítez Formoso

            Aaaawww, but of course it does not sound like a valid response! Sparks
            has just made my beautiful entire point – again: there is absolutely no
            evidence to support his previous statements. I admit he did try a bit to
            provide with that evidence, but yet again failed to do so. He most
            probably did not even take the time to read what he posted as alledged
            evidence, which is by itself another proof about the irresponsibility of
            his statements and further responses. On top of that, the best response
            he was able to think of, when confronted with this, was a personal
            attack. It is actually very common, given the impossibility to prove
            one’s point with actual evidence. No single piece of counter-evidence to
            find. I asked for no more than just that: counter-evidence. And in
            response I get… well, a typical form of ad hominem fallacy. I would
            lie if I said that I feel surprised, I get them all the time during
            academical debates.

            For the record if nothing else: ad hominem fallacy is not a valid
            argument either. I will not lie: I love proving my point and I love it
            too when the other part does get that angry because of an academical
            defeat. But you do need to get a little more serious if you intend to
            speak in terms of Science and evidence.

      • Anonymous

        “”There are also risks in carrying a pregnancy to term;  in fact they are
        far greater than in terminating the pregnancy through abortion.”

        Wrong
        statement. First and foremost, because there is simply no
        epidemiological evidence to support it (sorry, the whole evidence-based
        medicine makes us Med students quite a lot demanding on this issue).”

        As a Med student you are familiar with Williams Obstetrics, yes? As such, it is inappropriate for you to state that the medical evidence does not show that the M&M of carrying a pregnancy to term is far greater vs. [legal] pregnancy termination.

        Risk (death/year) continuing pregnancy to term: 1 in 10,000
        Risk terminating pregnancy: 1 in 263,000*

        *Williams 21 ed, p 1518

  • Anonymous

    Shine a light!