Critics complain that these bills seek to "bias," "coerce," and "guilt-trip" women. Come on. Women aren't too weak to face the truth. If you don't want to look at the video, you don't have to. But you should look at it, and so should the guy who got you pregnant, because the decision you're about to make is as grave as it gets.
Are ultrasound pushers trying to bias your decision? Of course. But of all the things they do to "inform" your decision, this is the least twisted. Look at the Senate's "Unborn Child Pain Awareness Act." It would order your doctor to deliver a 193-word script full of bogus congressional findings about your "pain-capable unborn child." Ultrasound cuts through that kind of garbage. The image on the monitor may look like a blob, a baby, or neither. It certainly won't follow some senator's script. All it will show you is the truth.
If I were a legislator, I'd offer four amendments to any ultrasound bill. First, the government should pick up the tab. Second, the woman should also be offered a six-hour videotape of a screaming 1-year-old. Third, any juror deliberating whether to issue a death sentence should be offered the chance to view an execution. Fourth, anyone buying meat should be offered the chance to watch video from a slaughterhouse. If my first amendment passed but the others failed, I'd still vote for the bill.
To pro-lifers, ultrasound is a test of pro-choice sincerity. "The same people who scream that women must always be told 'all their options,' including abortion, balk at allowing women to see whom it is whose life they are about to take," says Mary Spaulding Balch, NRLC's state legislative director. "They are petrified that women will change their minds after seeing their babies."
Maybe. But pro-lifers seem equally petrified that women won't change their minds. They rigged Mississippi's ultrasound law with a clause that would ban nearly all abortions if Roe is overturned. Now the Supreme Court has echoed that equivocation, ruling that one way to "inform" women of the evil of partial-birth abortion is to criminalize it. But the clash between ultrasound and the partial-birth ban is ultimately a choice between information and prohibition. To trust the ultrasound, you have to trust the woman.
A version of this article also appears in the Outlook section of the Sunday Washington Post.