By: Kevin O’Hanlon
An anti-abortion group wants Nebraska lawmakers to pass legislation that requires four-dimensional ultrasound images of human fetuses to be posted on a state website.
So-called 4-D ultrasounds take images of the fetus from several angles, showing such things as facial features and capturing movement.
Nebraska Right to Life said Tuesday it has been in contact with Kansans for Life about legislation passed in Kansas that resulted in such images being shown on that state’s Department of Health and Environment website as part of its “informed consent on abortion” statute.
Nebraska’s Informed Consent on Abortion law was passed in 1993, before 4-D ultrasound images were available. The law requires informed consent information to be posted on the Nebraska Department of Health and Human Service’s website.
“It is my intent to meet with DHHS in the coming weeks to see how the Kansas legislation might work with our existing DHHS website,” Julie Schmit-Albin, executive director of Nebraska Right to Life, said in an email to Nebraska lawmakers.
Kansans for Life says the use of 4-D ultrasound images on the Kansas website appears to have helped decrease the number of abortions there.
The organization spearheaded the “Women’s Right to Know and See” law passed by Kansas lawmakers in 2009. It gives women not only the option to see ultrasounds taken inside abortion clinics, but created a state Health Department website with real-time sonography of developing unborn children.
Kansas officials said the right-to-know website got 152,173 visits May 2010 through June 2012.
“Logically, some of these hits were repeat visits and some were from students or other non-pregnant interested individuals. But undoubtedly, the right-to-know website has contributed to the continuing decrease in Kansas abortions,” Kathy Ostrowski, Kansans for Life legislative director, said in a news release Monday.
She noted that 10,642 women had abortions in Kansas in 2008. A year later, that number dropped to 9,701, fell to 8,615 in 2010 and to 8,033 in 2011, she said.
“Thus, nearly 2,700 women never stepped inside a Kansas abortion business, due to their access to a state informed consent website,” Ostrowski said. “So, while we are pleased that a few hundred women each year do reject abortion upon reflection after entering Kansas clinics, the number choosing life has greatly increased with the online website.”
The national abortion rate has been falling since the early 1980s, according to the Guttmacher Institute.
Jill June, president and CEO of Planned Parenthood of the Heartland, said women should have all the information they need to decide whether to have abortions.
“Such information should support a woman, help her make the best decision for herself, her family and her circumstances, and enable her to take care of her health and well-being. Information should not be provided with the intent of shaming, coercing or making a woman change her mind,” she said.
“The recent elections imparted a strong and clear message that all legislators should heed: Women’s health matters. It is not the people of Nebraska who are driving legislation that harms women’s health. Rather, it is extreme special interest groups wanting to outlaw access to safe and legal abortion,” June said. “The bottom line is that a woman, not politicians, should make informed decisions when it comes to her own pregnancy.”
Nebraska’s informed consent law also requires providers of abortions to tell women of the medical risks of the procedure and that they cannot be forced to have abortions. Women can request a list, compiled by HHS, of health care providers and clinics that offer free ultrasounds performed by a person “at least as qualified” as a registered nurse.
If an ultrasound is performed, it must be done at least one hour before an abortion and displayed so the woman can choose to view it or not. She also can request that the provider describe what she sees on the display, including fetal dimensions, heart activity and the presence of arms, legs and organs.