A Reality Check Before an Abortion

In 10 Colleen Carroll Campbell on 2012/04/19 at 9:11 AM

It’s a moment every mother knows, and these days, it typically comes during the first ultrasound. As you lie in a darkened room and stare at what appear to be meaningless black-and-white streaks on a computer screen, your eyes suddenly fix upon that distinct little circle clinging to the uterine wall and you realize: That’s my baby.

Sometimes the moment comes when you hear the heartbeat, that staccato throbbing echoing through the exam room at a pace all its own. It overlaps at times with your own but is definitely not the same — it’s faster and more urgent, a reminder that the life growing within you has its own trajectory, intertwined with but independent from your own.

Until now, everything about your pregnancy has had a distant, theoretical feel: a faint plus sign on a pregnancy-test stick, a bunch of numbers on a blood-level report, a slight rounding of your stomach where it used to be flat.  You may have celebrated these signs or lamented them, but either way, the pregnancy did not feel quite real. Now it does.

And for the first time, it really hits you. This is not just about me or even the baby’s father and me. There is someone else involved — another body, another destiny, another human life.

A bill winding its way through the Missouri Legislature right now would ensure that every woman seeking an abortion has an opportunity to experience that moment before she decides to end her pregnancy and her unborn child’s life.  Sponsored by Sen. Robert Mayer, R-Dexter, this measure, Senate Bill 793, cleared the Senate last month. Now it is in the House awaiting consideration before the legislative session ends next week.

The measure includes a number of other features. It would provide women seeking abortions information about fetal development, pregnancy resource centers, alternatives to abortion and the child support obligations of the baby’s father under state law. It also would bar taxpayer-funded insurance coverage for elective abortions in plans offered through health insurance exchanges established by the new federal health care law.

The most controversial aspect of the bill has turned out to be the one that would seem to be its least offensive: its call for an ultrasound to be offered at least 24 hours before an abortion to any woman who wants one. Similar legislation in Oklahoma, Florida and Louisiana has sparked heated condemnations from abortion-rights activists, who have denounced ultrasounds as “burdensome” and “invasive.” This despite the fact that many abortion providers routinely conduct ultrasounds anyway, and the Missouri bill merely stipulates that a pregnant woman be given a chance to see what her doctor or nurse sees: the living, breathing being targeted for abortion.

It is true that viewing an ultrasound can complicate a woman’s decision to abort. Slogans about “my body and my choice” ring a little hollow when you are faced with another body that will be destroyed by your choice. And it’s harder to believe that it’s “just a lump of tissue” when you hear that lump’s heartbeat or see her tiny hands waving at you from the sonogram screen.

But if the vast majority of women choosing abortion are what abortion-rights advocates always say they are — empowered, informed and sufficiently deliberative about the irreversible decision they are about to make — then an optional ultrasound will not tell them anything new or sway them from a choice about which they feel secure.

Of course, there are countless stories of women who, upon hearing their baby’s heartbeat or seeing his blurry ultrasound image, decided to spare his life.  Supporters of informed consent laws see those stories as proof that too many women choose abortion from a position of desperation and vulnerability rather than knowledge and strength.

If they are right, more mothers will discover the humanity of their unborn child, more children will be allowed to live, and more couples hoping to adopt will find a child to love. If they are wrong, women in Missouri will face a minor speed bump on their road to speedy abortions.

Surely that little life peeking out at us from the sonogram screen is worth that much.

St. Louis Post-Dispatch May 06, 2010

Colleen Carroll Campbell is a St. Louis-based author, former presidential speechwriter and television and radio host of “Faith & Culture” on EWTN. Her website is www.colleen-campbell.com.


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