The New Sonogram Law for Texas

Baby Girl. 16 weeks.
Creative Commons License photo credit: @cdharrison

Texas’ new sonogram law is, as of yesterday, the law of the land for Texas women. After some wrangling in court over whether the law is constitutional, an appeals court yesterday decided it could move forward and be enforced (at least until the next legal challenge). So what does it all mean for Texas women?

The law requires any one seeking an abortion to have a sonogram at least 24 hours before the procedure and to listen as doctors describe what’s on the monitor. Women can choose whether to look at the screen and whether to hear the heartbeat, if one can be detected. They can only opt not to hear the doctor’s description of the fetus in cases of rape or incest, or if their fetuses have severe abnormalities. Finally, women need to come back the next day or later—basically, sleep on it—if they still want an abortion after the sonogram.

The people behind this law say it gives women “information,” not to mention a little time to step back and see a life in the making. Challengers of the law say it represents serious government intrusion (this is not the sonogram with just the jelly on the belly, if you get my drift). The sonogram is mandatory when abortions are sought, regardless of whether doctors recommend it, women want it, or insurers cover it.

Not many women can help but feel emotional in some way when they hear about this law. Pregnancy is powerful, and most moms have vivid memories of that first sonogram. For all the controversy, across the political spectrum, Americans believe in protecting the fetus at some point prior to delivery (Roe vs. Wade adds new protections with each new trimester). Most folks also believe in protecting mothers to some degree: a fetus’s rights look different to many when a mother’s life is endangered by the pregnancy. But that’s where any agreement ends.
AdvertisementMost of our differences come down to when and in what circumstances protections kick in. Nothing will change the minds of people whose faith says life begins at conception, but we don’t all have the same faith. We’ll never all agree.

Yet the issue isn’t going away. About half of women will experience an unintended pregnancy at some point; 3 out of 10 will have an abortion for one reason or another, according to the Guttmacher Institute. And the most common reasons cited don’t involve being unmarried or scared of motherhood. Three-fourths of the time, women cite being unable to financially care for a child and being unable to care for more children than they have today. Few talk about the fact that the majority of women seeking abortions are not only struggling financially; they are already moms.

Does that change the picture at all—that they have likely seen not only an early sonogram before, but also experienced the actual baby and toddler and child that follow? Many would say no, but it gives some of us pause. It makes some of us think for a minute about the unwanted kids out there: the children who are abused, neglected, hungry, unloved. Not every averted-from-abortion child would wind up with that life, but some would. For all the political talk of tragedies, few seem to talk about that.


Submitted by an anonymous blogger

About Christine Sinatra 53 Articles
Christine Sinatra is the communications director for Texans Care for Children and mom to a kindergartener. Her past experience includes working as a reporter for the Austin American-Statesman and the Oakland Tribune company, being a Peace Corps volunteer for high school girls in Africa, and studying at UT’s LBJ School of Public Affairs.

2 Comments on The New Sonogram Law for Texas

  1. Pregnancy is such a personal thing. The situation and circumstances leading to an abortion are personal. When so many people are crying about the government needing to stay out of our lives, why is it okay for the government to physically, emotionally and mentally inject themselves into my life or the life of someone they know nothing about. Where are the “less government” people then. These are the same people who are later crying over social programs that help many of the children born to unfortunate circumstances. My body, my right. This is a sad day for the rights of women.

  2. Agree completely Trish. As someone who has been through this decision, I think it is horrible that someone would blatantly question whether women choose this path lightly or without thought. It is demeaning and horrific.

    To answer your question on whether the fact that many people seeking this may already be moms – no I don’t feel it makes a difference. Even if women weren’t being forced now to listen to the description of or view/listen to the sonogram, this is a heart wrenching experience for anyone and this law trivializes our intelligence and the many roles we as women play.

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