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Legatus Magazine

Cover Story
Dorinda C. Bordlee | author
Sep 01, 2010
Filed under Culture of Life

Laws embrace windows on the womb

More abortion-minded women are being given the option to see their child via ultrasound . . .

Dorinda Bordlee

Science tells us when life begins. The real question is when love begins. For many abortion-minded women, love began when they had the opportunity to see their unborn child on an ultrasound screen.

The good news is that the opportunities to open this window on the womb are increasing with more and more state laws requiring ultrasounds before an abortion can be performed.

Testimony given by women in legislative hearings confirms that ultrasound images help a woman in an unexpected pregnancy to realize she’s not alone in this seeming crisis — that it’s not all about her, and that there’s another person right there with her in the most profound and physical way.

That person is her unborn child, who is joined by many other people such as those who operate pro-life pregnancy care centers that provide free hands-on resources like ultrasound and medical services, parenting and marriage counseling, diapers and formula, and even food for the new mom’s pantry before and after her baby’s birth.

The Knights of Columbus have taken the lead in getting ultrasound machines donated to pro-life pregnancy centers. This ultrasound donation outreach, together with the legislative efforts (promoted by my public-interest law firm Bioethics Defense Fund) is a powerful tool for building a culture of life. It gives each of us in the pro-life movement the opportunity to do what Supreme Knight Carl Anderson speaks of as “living as Christ lives, [as] we reveal to others who they are: beings made by love, and for love.”

It’s true that laws cannot mandate love. But by legally requiring that an ultrasound be performed before abortion with the express option for the woman to view the screen, this type of legislation can indeed create an environment for the light of love to overcome the darkness of fear. The ultrasound option allows an abortion-minded woman the freedom to replace her natural tendency to self-absorption with the ultimate opportunity for self-giving. It gives her a chance to realize that she can be a hero for one of the least amongst us.

This positive approach to building a culture of life is garnering national secular attention. A recent Washington Post opinion column was entitled “Women Should be Informed Before They Abort.” In the piece, Pulitzer Prize-winning author Kathleen Parker describes herself as “both pro-life and pro-choice.” Yet she writes that ultrasound legislation is a worthy approach which recognizes that “abortion truthfully presented would eliminate itself or vastly reduce its numbers.”

The column features a Louisiana law, drafted by Bioethics Defense Fund, that gives every woman seeking abortion two chances to choose life:

1. At least 24 hours before an abortion, the abortion provider must provide the woman with a list of places that offer free ultrasound services. This list will be compiled by the state’s Department of Health and will include pro-life pregnancy centers that offer free ultrasound.

2. If the woman returns for an abortion after a 24-hour reflection period, the abortion provider must perform an ultrasound at least two hours before the abortion to determine fetal viability and issues related to the woman’s health. At that ultrasound, the woman must be read a script that gives her three options: The option to view the ultrasound screen, the option to hear an explanation of the images, and the option to get a print-out of her unborn child’s image.

These options are offered by a script that the ultrasound technician must read to the woman in the examination room prior to the beginning of the ultrasound examination. The BDF model legislation includes the text of the script so that the abortionist cannot negatively influence the woman by saying things such as, “You don’t want to see this, do you?”

Because the ultrasound provisions are added to a currently existing “Woman’s Right to Know” law, the abortionist will be subject to civil and criminal penalties if the woman is denied these options.

Laws requiring ultrasound before abortion give women the gift of sight. What they see is the beauty of their unborn child — the kind of beauty referred to by Russian writer Fyodor Dostoevsky when he wrote his famous phrase, “Beauty will save the world.” In this case, beauty can save a life.

Dorinda C. Bordlee is senior counsel of Bioethics Defense Fund, a non-profit pro-life legal organization with the mission to advocate for the dignity of human life through litigation, legislation and public education. An abridged version of this article appeared in the September 2010 issue of Legatus Magazine.


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