AP: Ultrasound laws raising costs, not reducing abortions

By | 03.05.12 | 2:09 pm

(Pic by <a href="http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Medical_ultrasound_examination.JPG">Christopher Hubenthal, U.S. Air Force</a>)

The Associated Press reported on Friday that laws requiring women to undergo an ultrasound prior to having an abortion have not reduced the number of abortions, and have instead raised the price of the legal procedure. Florida was among the various states to pass such a measure last year.

The AP reports:

Abortion providers and abortion-rights advocates say many of the laws — those requiring ultrasounds, waiting periods and specific types of counseling — are burdensome and demeaning, but rarely dissuade women who want the procedure.

“The reality is that if a woman has decided that’s what right for her, she’ll do whatever it takes to get it done,” said Peter Brownlie, CEO of Planned Parenthood of Kansas and Mid-Missouri.

However, when the laws boost the cost of an abortion — and are coupled with bans on any public funding — there can be a real impact.

“Overall, the informed consent laws have no deterrent effect,” said Tracy Weitz, a sociologist at the University of California, San Francisco who has studied the laws.

Abortion-rights supporters in Texas doubt that the images and information provided by that process will dissuade many women from having abortions. However, they say the law nonetheless could be a deterrent because of cost factors — women now need to make two trips to a clinic and will occupy more of their doctors’ time.

“The price of the procedure has increased with some of the providers — and there’s the cost to women of taking more time off from work,” said Houston attorney Shailey Gupta-Brietzke, who helps oversee the Lilith Fund, a program assisting women who can’t afford abortions on their own.

Dr. Curtis Boyd, who operates the Southwestern Women’s Surgery Center in Dallas, said the new law has forced him and other abortion providers to raise prices, generally by $50 to $75 per procedure.

Boyd, a full-time abortion provider since the 1970s, said ultrasounds are routinely performed before abortions. But he resents a mandate being imposed by legislators and says his patients — many of them already mothers — are unlikely to change their mind due to an ultrasound.

Among the several bills that passed last year aimed at cracking down on access to legal abortions in Florida was a bill that requires any woman seeking an abortion to undergo an ultrasound. Some states have entered into legal trouble over similar laws, which often include a provision requiring women to either watch the ultrasound and/or hear a description of it. Florida’s law has not been challenged, though, because it allows women to opt-out of hearing or seeing the ultrasound.

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