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June 25, 2015 (LifeSiteNews) — Last month in a media interview presidential candidate Gov. Scott Walker was questioned about his stance on the social issues. His response included a proud reference to an ultrasound bill that he signed into law in Wisconsin in July 2013. He offhandedly also mentioned that he and his wife still have ultrasound images of their two sons, now 19 and 20 years old, “a cool thing.”  Many media outlets responded to this interview by attacking and mischaracterizing his words.

Having worked for many years in the pro-life movement, I am increasingly convinced that ultrasound laws are at best highly misunderstood and at worst an opportunity to spread severe falsehood, which in turn does a disservice to those these laws are seeking to help, women facing an unexpected pregnancy.

To those who have such a strong reaction to something as innocuous as a pro-life candidate calling modern ultrasound technology “cool,” I make a small plea on behalf of women facing unexpected pregnancies. Please stand down.

For background, according to the Guttmacher Institute, as of May 1, 2015, 23 states had ultrasound laws in place; they are common. The shared element of each law is that a woman seeking an abortion first obtains an ultrasound. There are different nuances in each state, including the kind of ultrasound required (abdominal verses transvaginal) and if/how the woman seeking the abortion will view the image. Ultrasound laws fall in the category of “informed consent laws” because they provide the woman with factual (and pictorial) information to help her make what could be the most significant decision of her life. 

There are at least three facts that have not been well reported on this subject.  First, most abortion clinics conduct ultrasounds prior to performing terminations. They do this for a variety of reasons, all related to women’s health. Second, ultrasound technology reveals if the woman has an ectopic pregnancy (a pregnancy that attaches to the fallopian tubes, outside of the uterus), which can be deadly to the mother and baby. Particularly if a woman ingests the increasingly popular chemical abortion regimen and has an unknown ectopic pregnancy, she has placed herself in an extremely dangerous scenario.

Third, an ultrasound will help determine if the baby is viable. Why is this necessary? The National Institute of Health reports that 15-20% of pregnant women who know that they are expecting will have a miscarriage. For women who are pregnant but are not aware of that fact the miscarriage rate is as high as 50%.  Ultrasound technology helps to verify viability, and in doing so provides the mother with information that may have a significant impact upon her decision.

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Perhaps the fact that causes the intense emotional reaction to the laws – is that with some frequency when a woman views her baby with the digital technology provided by an ultrasound she changes her mind and no longer wants to terminate the baby’s life. Yes, it is true. Seeing one's baby in an ultrasound is not only “cool” but convincing. But what’s so bad about that? In fact every other facet of medicine seems to require patients be better informed about the health decisions they make.

To date, one of the best “culture of life” ministries that I am aware of is a mobile ultrasound unit that offers the image technology for free to women facing an unexpected pregnancy. The mobile unit parks across the street from abortion clinics and simply offers women who are considering abortion a free look at her developing little one. The unit has a medical doctor oversee the work and ultrasound technicians on staff. The result of this wonderful ministry is that frequently women facing an unexpected pregnancy choose life. Seeing a beating heart and the little developing baby is often the best and most necessary scientific and evidential proof that an early pregnancy is not a “blob of tissue,” but a little human being. 

To those who have such a strong reaction to something as innocuous as a pro-life candidate calling modern ultrasound technology “cool” I make a small plea on behalf of women facing unexpected pregnancies. Please stand down. In the name of freedom of choice and informed consent, please allow a woman to use the best science and technology out there to make an informed decision. Perhaps you do not agree with her, but please respect the freedom for a woman to choose life when she so desires. 

Jeanne Mancini is president of the March for Life Education and Defense Fund.