The U.S. Supreme Court recently declined to look at a case questioning the constitutionality of an Oklahoma abortion law requiring that an ultrasound be performed before an abortion can take place. Similar laws have also been passed in Louisiana, Texas, and North Carolina. These laws require that “abortion providers conduct an ultrasound examination and explain to the patient the state of fetal development one hour prior to an abortion, even if the patient chose to avert her eyes from the screen.”
The Oklahoma, unlike the laws of the other three states, also requires that “the physician use a vaginally inserted transducer for the ultrasound – rather than the more common and less intrusive abdominal transducer – if the resulting image would ‘display the embryo or fetus more clearly.’” Failure to comply by these standards can result in the loss of the physician’s medical license. However, the Oklahoma Supreme Court struck down this abortion law, holding it unconstitutional in light of the 1992 case: Planned Parenthood v. Casey. The U.S. Supreme Court’s subsequent refusal to examine the law thus keeps the law off the books in Oklahoma.
While some may see this as a victory for women’s rights, others are likely not happy with the result. Many may have viewed the law as helpful towards providing informed consent. Informed consent is extremely important for any procedure, but the overturned Oklahoma law requires a bit more than typical informed consent. Inserting a medical device into someone’s body and attempting to sway their decision away from accepting a procedure based on emotional or moral considerations does not exactly equate to typical informed consent where a doctor explains potential health risks. On the other hand, documented evidence that the law resulted in educating young women on what exactly their baby was at the particular developmental stage when the exam was undertaken does help increase overall awareness of what an abortion entails, and what the mother is giving up. At the very least, the Oklahoma law has given the public another look at the considerations of the opposing sides of this ongoing debate.