Study: Ultrasound rarely changes abortion plans

Last July, Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker signed a bill requiring women seeking an abortion to undergo an ultrasound. It was part of a nationwide push to reduce the number of abortions under the theory that if a women sees a fetus, she’ll change her mind.

She usually doesn’t, a study today suggests.

“This study was motivated in large part by the current political and popular interest in what role ultrasound viewing plays in women’s decisions about abortion,” one of the authors, Katrina Kimport at the University of California San Francisco School of Medicine, tells Reuters.

Kimport and her colleagues analyzed those records and found that most women (85.4 percent) said they were certain they had made the right decision to have the abortion. A smaller number (7.4 percent) were classified as having medium or low levels of certainty about getting the procedure.

Although all of the women included in the study had ultrasounds, less than half (42.5 percent) chose to see the image.

A total of 98.8 percent of the planned abortions took place. Among women who did not view their ultrasounds, 99 percent went through with the procedure. Among those who did view the images, 98.4 percent of the women had abortions.

The images appeared to have the greatest effect among women who had expressed low or medium certainty about the procedure. In that group, those who viewed the ultrasounds were slightly less likely to go through with the abortion: 95.2 percent did have the procedure, compared to 97.5 percent of uncertain women who did not view the ultrasound.

Women who expressed high certainty about their decision showed no differences, whether or not they had viewed the ultrasound.

In addition to Wisconsin, North Dakota and South Dakota law requires only that an abortion provider offer an ultrasound to a woman seeking an abortion (see state by state laws).