Mandatory ultrasound viewing rarely dissuades women

Wisconsin is one of four states, along with Kentucky, Louisiana and Texas that mandate ultrasound viewing before abortion. The Wisconsin law, which took effect in July 2013, requires abortion providers to display and describe an ultrasound image to patients. In addition, it goes a step further by requiring providers to display the image in the patient’s line of sight, whether or not the woman wishes to view it.

A new ANSIRH study, the first of its kind to examine the effects of a mandatory ultrasound viewing law, looked at 5,158 patient charts in Wisconsin. We found that women seeking abortions overwhelmingly go through with the abortion, even when required to view the ultrasound image before the procedure.

The study found that the most important factor in determining whether a woman had an abortion at the clinic was her level of certainty about the abortion decision ahead of ultrasound viewing. Other factors, such as not being able to pay for the abortion out-of-pocket, were also associated with not obtaining an abortion at the clinic.

Both before and after the implementation of a mandatory ultrasound viewing law in Wisconsin, the vast majority of women had the procedure. The total proportion of women who did not obtain an abortion at the study clinic increased from 9 percent before the law to 11 percent after, a statistically significant but small amount. The researchers suggest that those who ultimately did not have the abortion at the study clinic may have felt broader social pressure to continue a pregnancy, pressure that would be particularly strong in states that condone and pass mandatory ultrasound viewing laws. The ultrasound viewing may have then provided the “tipping point” on top of this broader social pressure for a small number of women.

Cross-posted from ANSIRH website.