Researchers studying medical records of Planned Parenthood clinics in California have found that nearly 99 percent of women went ahead with their abortion plan even after choosing to view an ultrasound image of the fetus.
According to the study "Relationship Between Ultrasound Viewing and Proceeding to Abortion," 98.4 percent of the women who viewed their ultrasounds had abortions. Among women who did not view their ultrasounds, 99 percent went ahead with an abortion.
Published in the latest edition of the Obstetrics & Gynecology journal, the official publication of the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, the study reviewed medical records from 15,575 visits at 19 Planned Parenthood clinics in Los Angeles during 2011.
The researchers found that 85.4 percent of women were certain they had made the right decision to have the abortion. Only 7.4 percent were classified as having medium or low levels of certainty about getting the procedure.
While all the women included in the study had ultrasounds, 42.5 percent of them chose to see the image. A total of 98.8 percent of the planned abortions took place, the study noted.
"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," Reuters quoted one of the authors, Katrina Kimport at the University of California San Francisco School of Medicine, as saying.
"We were interested in bringing in an empirical perspective to these conversations," she said, adding there was very little research on what effects viewing would have on women who are seeking or considering abortions.
The viewing of images apparently had the greatest effect among women who had expressed low or medium certainty about the procedure, the researchers found. While 97.5 percent of uncertain women who did not view the ultrasound went through with the procedure, 95.2 percent who viewed the ultrasounds did so.
The study also found that women at 17 to 19 weeks of gestation were almost 20 times as likely to back out of the abortion compared to women at less than 9 weeks gestation.
In his daily analysis of news and events from a Christian point of view, R. Albert Mohler Jr. said the story by Reuters will "disappoint" us, "yet it tells us something we need to know."
Mohler, who serves as president of The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, added that if the researchers were really interested in an empirical dimension to this issue, they might have considered how to get a broader sampling of women seeking or considering an abortion. "By the time a woman is inside a Los Angeles area Planned Parenthood clinic, she has probably for all intent and purposes already made the decision to get the abortion."
The study, therefore, may not show a true picture, Mohler indicated. However, if it does, then it tells us something, he said. "Human beings have a way of overcoming moral defenses ... Human beings may have their moral sensitivities changed for some time by looking at an ultrasound image. But in the culture of death and in the increasing subversion of human dignity, it may well be that the moral impact of that ultrasound image fades or decreases over time. I sincerely hope not."
There are currently 10 states with laws requiring doctors to perform ultrasounds before abortions. While three of those require the woman to view the image during the ultrasound, the others say doctors should offer women the option of viewing it.