Lawmakers in Texas are requiring abortion seeking women to get an ultrasound.
This week, many folks were outraged over a proposed law in Virginia that would have required women seeking abortions to first undergo invasive transvaginal ultrasounds. Politicians wisely ditched that bill — but earlier this month in Texas, a law similarly regulating abortion procedures actually went into effect. Today in the Lone Star state, any woman seeking an abortion must get a sonogram at least 24 hours in advance — and although she may decline to look at images of the fetus or hear the heartbeat (both things her doctor must make available), she is required to listen as her doctor describes the sonogram results.
Though it’s too soon to track the impact of what’s being called “the sonogram law,” pro-lifers believe this new set of procedures will reduce Texas abortions by 30 percent. And while you could argue that at its heart the law has the right intent — everyone wants to decrease abortions, and some want to ban them outright — Texas is going about it the wrong way. The new law is trying to make a hard decision even harder by tugging on the emotions of a usually scared and confused woman, encouraging her to choose a path for which she’s not prepared — hence her arrival at her doctor’s office in the first place.
There’s a reigning belief that women who have abortions do so casually, without giving great weight to the decision; that they slide their legs into stirrups with the same ease they would pop a birth control pill (one they evidently forgot to take); that once the “situation” is “taken care of,” it’s like the whole thing never happened.
Surely there is a woman for whom this is true. I haven’t met her yet.
The women I have met who have confessed to having one? For them, it was a gut-wrenching decision, filled with crippling, lingering guilt. It was a choice they made because they were financially unstable, or emotionally unprepared, or in a rocky relationship — not because of cold, callous, or heartless reasons.
This is a choice that stays with many women (and many men, too) forever. I’ve had female friends become depressed for seemingly no reason, only to confess later they went AWOL because they were thinking about their could-have-been kid on the anniversary of that fateful clinic appointment. I’ve been privy to stories from many men who recount things they would have liked to do with a son or daughter who never came to be. There’s a whole heap of guilt and a bit of shame, too — but if they had to do it over, they’ve told me, they would have made the same choice. As a good friend who had an abortion her freshman year of college once put it, “It wasn’t the ideal choice, but it was the best one I had.”
Texas’ new law will only add to a woman’s guilt if she goes through with the procedure, or possibly make her commit to a decision she’s not ready for only because she’s been shamed into it. Either way, it’s a lose-lose for abortion rights and for the women of Texas.
What do you think of Texas’ new law?
Demetria L. Lucas is the author of “A Belle in Brooklyn: The Go-to Girl for Advice on Living Your Best Single Life” (Atria), in stores now. Follow her on Twitter @abelleinbk
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