Mandatory Ultrasound Laws are About Political Interference, Not Medical Information

Christine Vestal had a story on yesterday about legislative efforts to require doctors to perform ultrasounds before an abortion. The green light really came on for anti-abortion activists this past April, when Oklahoma legislators easily passed a first-in-the-nation law that forces health care providers to perform an ultrasound before a woman has an abortion regardless of medical necessity or benefit, and requires the woman to listen to a description of the fetal image against her will.

Vestal notes that 17 states considered more than 30 ultrasound bills this year, "a record level of legislative activity on any abortion issue," and that we should expect to be seeing even more of them in the next legislative session.

Trevor Lippman, State Strategies Fellow for the ACLU's Reproductive Freedom Project, correctly nails the Oklahoma law's real intent, and the harm it poses to women's health:

The Oklahoma law is about political interference, not about medical information. We think a woman should be able to trust that the advice she receives from her physician reflects what her physician really believes is in her best interest, not something that her physician has been forced to say.

What the article fails to note, however, is that the Oklahoma law doesn't stop at mandatory ultrasounds. It also permits health care institutions and individual health care workers to refuse to provide certain health services without ensuring that patients can access the care they need elsewhere. And it restricts a woman's access to medication abortion (also known as mifepristone or the early abortion pill), despite the fact that it is a safe and effective non-surgical method of terminating early pregnancy, by limiting a doctor's ability to administer the drug and hampering a doctor's discretion to determine appropriate and necessary medical care.

In the face of Oklahoma's law, and its copycats, the ACLU will continue working to ensure that every woman has medically accurate information, access to the medical care she needs, and is able to make the best decisions for her health and her individual circumstances without political interference.

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OK - I'm not really concerned with this issue - just wanted to write on the blog.

why aren't you talking about the DC gun ban ruling? In fact - why isn't gun control a prominent issue for the ACLU? That seems a little strange? What is your position on gun control?

Suzanne Ito, ACLU

Hi Daniel. The ACLU's official position on the 2nd Amendment can be found here:


Sorry Suzanne, Daniel may not have been aware of the old ACLU gun policy but his larger point is dead on.

You shouldn't play the ostrich game when it comes to the D.C. v Heller decision. In fact, that case now makes the ACLU gun policy you cited obsolete since that policy is predicated on court hostility to the right of the people to keep and bear arms. Well the Supreme Court has now clearly spoken and ruled that Americans have a constitutional right to handguns.

The ACLU needs to reassess it's dated 2002 gun policy if it is to maintain credibility with the public on non-gun issues. How will it look if the ACLU is more hostile to a constitutional right than the official position of the Supreme Court and 73% of the public?


The Oklahoma law is about political interference...

As opposed to judicial interference?

We 'hillbilly' Okies refer to that as representative know...DEMOCRACY!

The people here like it far better than the ACLU's version, better known as judicial activism.


This is nuts, if these woman don't "feel" to be placed into this situation of getting these ultrasounds done, why did they lay down to begin with. Because it's all about their "feelings" in that moment never an afterthought of what might come of unprotected sex. So as we educate our teens and even younger children, for every action there is a reaction.
Suck it up and go do the right thing!


Awwww, what's the matter? You afraid people will realize abortion is ending the life of a baby and be discouraged? Thus leading more white people to be born to scourge the planet?


I agree with Brad and am a little apalled at the explanation of ACLU policy.

You guys really aren't a civil liberties union, then - you're just a "civil liberties that liberals agree with" group. I've thought this before, as well - I've kinda scratched my head when you've made moves to oppose the National Day of Prayer activities at schools as well. you claim to support civil liberties and personal freedoms, but you seek to put restrictions on what religious students can do in public areas? and now you're saying you don't support individual rights guaranteed by the second amendment?

I'm opposed to racial discrimination, I 100% support gay rights, I oppose guantanamo bay, I oppose drug criminalization, and I fully support reproductive rights.

I also support the right to bear arms, the right to practice your religion wherever you want, and a host of other rights you guys seem to squeemish to stand up for. You really could have taken a stand on DC vs. Heller - REALLY stood up for an important civil liberty... kinda shows what you're really made of.


You really should do a blog post on the second amendment and see where people fall out on it. I think especially in light of this case, the ACLU needs to consider changing its policy.


While ultrasound can be a great tool, repeated ultrasounds increase the danger of congenital defects and infant death somewhat. No one has check for the effect on the mother. It is just assumed not to have an effect. Requiring women to get an unessesary procedure adds to everyone's expense, since more equipment and rooms will be needed. Having needed an emergency ultrasound before an emergency D&C (I was bleeding so as to soak through blankets) and then at a separate time had a dead "fetus" removed (a month after it died), I am aware of having to "prove" that it was not an elective abortion, and getting lectured about birth control, during a period of extreme grief.
I can only imagine the senerio of red tape if this law had been in force.
My parents and I and my grown children all believe that it should be a right of every child to be wanted. Medical providers should object to this as opposing their oath.


The ACLU interprets the Second Amendment as a collective right. Therefore, we disagree with the Supreme Court's decision in D.C. v. Heller. While the decision is a significant and historic reinterpretation of the right to keep and bear arms, the decision leaves many important questions unanswered that will have to be resolved in future litigation, including what regulations are permissible, and which weapons are embraced by the Second Amendment right that the Court has now recognized.


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