North Dakota Restricting the Right To Abortion One Ultrasound at a Time.

The Red River Women’s Clinic is filing an injunction to block the North Dakota state law that essentially makes women look at an ultrasound of the baby 24 hours before the abortion.

According to a news release from the Center for Reproductive Rights in New York, the new North Dakota law “includes a confusing provision requiring that the ‘auscultation of the fetal heart tone,’ which makes the fetal heartbeat audible, be consistent with ‘standard medical practice in the community,’ without making it clear whether or not the facility is required to offer the woman the opportunity to listen to the fetal heartbeat.”
Adding the equipment to allow women to hear the fetal heartbeat “would impose a high financial burden on the facility,” according to the center, which is working on behalf of the Fargo clinic.
“This law does nothing to enhance the safety of abortion care, and in the end, just subjects the only clinic in North Dakota to strict criminal liability for failing to conform to a medical standard that doesn’t exist,” said Suzanne Stolz, staff attorney for the Center for Reproductive Rights, in the news release. “The staff at Red River would either be forced to choose between providing abortions altogether — in effect denying women in the state access to abortion — or risking criminal prosecution to continue providing abortion services.”

Pro-lifers will stop at nothing with their slut-shaming, anti-woman, pro-forced child birth antics. The sad, but not so shocking reality is that the legislation passed in the first place.

Join the Conversation

  • AnatomyFightSong

    Nitpick: “…an ultrasound of the baby.” FETUS. Not baby.

  • alixana

    TBH, a lot of times I get annoyed at the semantics, because the heart of the issue doesn’t change whether it a fetus, a zygote, a baby, or a super sparkly vampire.
    It’s almost like arguing over the term opens us up to a “gotcha!” It’s not like our core beliefs would evaporate if we use the term baby. If it’s a baby, we’d STILL believe in the woman’s bodily autonomy and that no one should be forced to give up the use of their body to keep someone else alive, whether that ‘someone’ is a fetus, baby, or a grown man. The fight isn’t really over where life begins, which is what the fetus vs. baby word choice boils down to.
    Or, put another way to tie it back to the ridiculousness of the ultrasound legislation, no woman’s going to look at an ultrasound before an abortion and say, “Oh shit! There’s a baby in there! What a shock, I had no idea! I’m so glad you showed me before I aborted.” That’s the whole reason she’s there in the first place!

  • AnatomyFightSong

    First of all, it’s not about “semantics,” it’s about accuracy.
    Second, the ridiculousness of the ultrasound legislation is that, in part, it’s trying to manipulate women into thinking about the fetus as a baby. (“Look at her tiny fingers and toes! She’s smiling at you!”) It’s disingenuous to say the language is isolated from the “real issue.”
    Also, I’m pretty sure Samhita and I are on the same side of the issue, so it’s hardly a “gotcha” moment.

  • Unequivocal

    I don’t think Alixana is trying to say that this is a “gotcha” moment for you or Samhita, but rather that by focusing on the terminology, we are essentially allowing the pro-life proponents to change the nature of the argument into something other than what it is really about, leaving us open for a “gotcha” from that end.
    In any case, it seems like, right or wrong, the use of “baby” as synonymous with “fetus” is largely accepted (at least if you grant that Google’s definitions are accurate in the eyes of most of society). With that in mind, I think Alixana’s admonition to not let the debate be framed around semantics is probably spot on.

  • alixana

    If scientists proved tomorrow that life began at conception, the little mass of cells has a soul, it’s a person, would we shrug and pack up and abandon the fight? I don’t think so. If it does have fingers and toes and smiles, would we say that women shouldn’t have the right to do with her body what she chooses?
    I’m well aware that you and Samhita are likely on the same side. Those that aren’t, though, do truly think that if they can prove personhood and fingers and toes, that they’ll win. But my stance is that even if they do prove all that, we still be entitled to reproductive rights because our stance is so much stronger than all of that. It’s just distracting.

  • voluptuouspanic

    I could be wrong, but from what I remember of my time working at an abortion clinic, you can’t hear the heartbeat until 12-14 weeks, which is getting into the second trimester. Second trimester procedures are more expensive and more risky to the woman. So, that’s weird, to me.
    Viewing the ultrasound is always weird to me, though, because unless you know what to look for, an ultrasound at less than 14 weeks looks like nothing. I have an ultrasound of my uterus with an IUD in place hanging in my apartment, and no one except trained medical personnel have figured out what it is.

  • AnatomyFightSong

    I think the vast majority of pro-choice advocates (and medical professionals) would not agree that “baby” can or should be used interchangeably with “fetus.”
    I feel strongly about this fact, just as many pro-choice advocates stringently object to using “pro-life” to mean “anti-abortion” — for both factual and political reasons. There have been plenty of discussions here on this.
    (In my experience, a “gotcha” moment is typically used to describe a red herring thrown out by the opposition to obscure the issue at hand, whereas I feel language is an integral part of the discussion.)
    Sounds like this is a bit tangential, though (which is why I did say “nitpick”) — I didn’t mean to steer this discussion off course.

  • cattrack2

    Does anyone know, from either studies or just anecdotally, how effective these tactics are in reducing abortion?

  • alixana

    I’d assume the only thing that would really factor in is the 24 hour period between the ultrasound and the abortion – rather than the ultrasound convincing the woman not to abort, the waiting period would make it much more difficult for her to afford it (time off work, travel, hotel room while waiting, etc.).
    But that’s just my gut instinct, I have no facts to back that up with. No one I’ve known who’s had an abortion was required to view an ultrasound first.

  • kahri

    Well, I went in thinking I was dealing with a first trimester pregnancy (based on what I thought was my last regular period) only to find out I was actually well into the second trimester. So I had to wait a week for another appointment at a different clinic where they were equipped to do a D&X abortion. I wanted to see the ultrasound both times because I was curious. It was fascinating to me to be able to see the fetus, but for many, many reasons, continuing a pregnancy was not a choice I could make.
    I don’t know if having to view and reflect on an ultrasound would change other women’s minds. There was absolutely nothing that could have changed mine except perhaps winning a couple million dollars in the lottery. And even then, I don’t know.

  • theology_nerd

    As a feminist woman who is also anti-abortion (not in the sense of wanting to return to the days of back-alley abortions, but in the sense of wanting to make abortions unnecessary via comprehensive sex ed, adoption reform, and support for single moms), I’m thinking “YAY” to anything that might make a woman think twice about aborting.
    Do mandatory ultrasounds do that? I don’t have any anecdotal or statistic evidence, but I do see the logic here…for many people, seeing is believing. A pregnant woman knows on a cognitive level that there is a fetus/embryo/zygote in her uterus, but actually *seeing* it on an ultrasound screen forces her to confront the reality that a tiny life has begun. Additionally, the waiting period gives her some time to make sure that aborting is what they really want to do…many studies have shown that a startling high percentage of women who’ve aborted were pressured to do so by their parents or partner. (I can provide links, although some of these are published by pro-life groups and are likely to be biased…it’s still an interesting issue, IMHO.)
    If viewing an ultrasound or taking an extra day to think about her decision helps a woman choose to raise her child or give it up for adoption instead of aborting it, why is that such a horrible thing?

  • meabsolutely

    Thank you for posting this and drawing attention to this situation.
    I work at the Red River Women’s Clinic. Since we are the only abortion clinic in the state and we are on the very edge of it (next to Minnesota) women often travel hours to get here (sometimes they even come from Canada). The 24 hour period would make it extremely difficult for the women we serve, especially minors.
    I am so grateful to see people from all over the country supporting us. Thank you.

  • MzBitca

    I honestly believe it’s more about making actually getting there for the appointment as difficult as possible. Most people hear that they have to see an ultrasound first and think, well what’s the big deal.
    It’s the whole, two appointments at least 24 hours appart thing that people forget about, and also most of the people that hear about these laws are often middle class to upper class people who have a hard time imagining it outside of their experience. SO they don’t realize that that could mean hotel rooms, travel expenses, lost time at work, day care twice for other kids. etc. and that has the potential to break a person financially and emotionaly.
    Like Justice Ginsburg has said, rich white women will always be able to have abortions so everyone should have the same rights. These laws are designed to take away those rights while politicians g /fs and daughters can still get their “special procedure”

  • meabsolutely

    Thank you for posting this and drawing attention to this situation.
    I work at the Red River Women’s Clinic. Since we are the only abortion clinic in the state and we are on the very edge of it (next to Minnesota) women often travel hours to get here (sometimes they even come from Canada). The 24 hour period would make it extremely difficult for the women we serve, especially minors.
    I am so grateful to see people from all over the country supporting us. Thank you.

  • kahri

    I should add that I was able to make it to the appointments because my only job at the time was being out of work and seeking full time employment.

  • kahri

    And I’m still paying off the credit card bill.

  • alixana

    When my best friend got pregnant, she thought twice about aborting. She thought three times, four times, and even five. And each time, she arrived at the same conclusion. Women don’t have to be legally mandated to think about it. They already do. It’s paternalistic to think you’d have to tell a woman to think about it before she does.
    See above re: the waiting period. I’m guessing that you’re coming from a place where it’s relatively easy to make an appointment and get there, and that you have a job where it’s really easy to take off for such things.

  • kahri

    Excellent, excellent points. I forget that I’m lucky enough to live in one the 10% of counties nationwide that have clinics where abortions are performed.

  • theology_nerd

    “It’s paternalistic to think you’d have to tell a woman to think about it before she does.”
    I’m not suggesting that women who abort don’t put thought into it, I’m just saying that it’s important to ensure that they are given plenty of time before making such a huge decision. And it’s also important to make sure that it’s HER decision (see what I said above about women being pressured into by friends and family.)
    Ultimately, I think that the common ground that most everybody can agree on is that abortion is NOT desirable or ideal, and that we should strive to make it so that no woman is ever in a situation where she feels that an abortion is necessary. Like I said earlier, if waiting periods and ultrasounds convince a woman to not go through with it, then yay.

  • PamelaVee

    This is also another (intended or not) way of screwing over those who are not privileged, and further restricting rights of women.
    WOMEN KNOW WHAT ABORTIONS ARE. They know what pregnancy is. Not only is this really infantalizing, but that extra day wait can mean a lot to someone who lives paycheck to paycheck. This means another possible hotel stay, another car rental, another day of childcare, another day of missed work. I don’t think these things aren’t considered. It’s punishment for women having sexuality. I know that might sound drastic to some, but consider who in this country is disproportionately poor and you will see that this is a racist/classist policy as well.

  • JoanOfArc

    But you are assuming that women are so incompetent that they need the state to mandate how much time they need to consider a medical decision. And while I am sure some women have been pressured into having abortions, how is making the woman see an ultrasound and wait 24 hours going to lessen familial pressure?
    I trust women to know what they want. The state should not be in the business of telling women how long they need to sit in time out and ‘consider’ their medical choices.
    Joan

  • kahri

    But there will always be women who do want or need abortions and for whom abortion is desirable and ideal. Sure, theoretically not getting pregnant in the first place could be a nice pipe dream, but that’s not ever going to be 100% attainable.
    And honestly, abortion can have positive outcomes for a women who is on her own path of growth and self-discovery. I don’t agree that abortion is inherently negative. My abortion brought me and my husband closer together as people in a loving relationship. It brought me to reflect deeply about my identity and my views of women. It brought me to a greater appreciation for kids and respect for moms. Truly and honestly, abortion has shaped my life for the better.
    I absolutely would not feel personally safe saying anything like this in my real life, because I have the perception that I would be verbally attacked. In that sense the anonymity of the internet is liberating.

  • alixana

    How do you define “plenty of time”? From the time that you miss a period, to when you finally decide to stop waiting for it and buy a pregnancy test and take it and wait for the result, to when you call the doctor and make an appointment, to the time until the appointment actually arrives, to when you’re sitting in the waiting room waiting for your turn…that doesn’t all happen in the blink of an eye. What in the world is another 24 hours on top of all that, when a lot of women think of almost nothing but during the waiting time that already exists?
    I’d rather a woman have an abortion that she might not have had 24 hours later than for a woman to be stuck carrying to term because the waiting period made it economically impossible for her to have it. The latter is absolutely abusive.

  • theotherf-word

    ok…but what about the ultrasound/24hr waiting period ensures that the women is not being “pressured to do so by their parents or partner?” they aren’t mandating that the ultrasound be shown/explained to any one else except the pregnant woman.
    “Like I said earlier, if waiting periods and ultrasounds convince a woman to not go through with it, then yay.” i don’t see how these two requirements will accomplish anything other than making abortion prohibitively difficult to access for underprivileged women by the former, and making getting an abortion more upsetting than it has to be via the latter. “yay” is hardly the attitude that comes to mind.
    and i would add, the fetal heart beat “requirement” would also only make providing abortions prohibitively expensive for under-funded clinics. in the long term, these requirements are not really about “convincing” women not to abort as they are about denying us access.

  • theology_nerd

    “But you are assuming that women are so incompetent that they need the state to mandate how much time they need to consider a medical decision. And while I am sure some women have been pressured into having abortions, how is making the woman see an ultrasound and wait 24 hours going to lessen familial pressure?”
    Um, I *am* a woman, and I certainly don’t believe that my gender is incompetent. Nor do I believe that there should be state-mandated waiting times for run-of-the-mill medical procedures…the thing is, I don’t see abortion as being “just” a medical procedure.
    As you might be able to discern from my s/n, I come from a faith background (and will actually be ordained in either the United Methodist Church or United Church of Christ in a few years.) And while I certainly respect each individual’s autonomy and ability to control their own body, the fact of the matter is that once a woman has gotten pregnant, it’s not just her body anymore. (Of course, it’s not any less hers, which is why abortion is such a gray area and why I don’t want to make abortion illegal. Instead, I choose to advocate for sex education, reforms in healthcare, education, and employment that will benefit working mothers, and why I am a staunch advocate of adoption.)
    Anyway, while I am most certainly a feminist, I cannot divorce myself from my deeply-held religious beliefs about the sanctity of each human life. (And before you accuse me of being yet another Christian who selectively applies the pro-life ethic, let me assure you that my pro-life beliefs also extend to the topics of war, capital punishment, poverty, and healthcare.) I don’t see abortion as a medical procedure, I see it as the ending of a human life. While I can’t and don’t want to legislate morality or impose my beliefs on others, I can’t pretend that abortion is just the removal of a blob of tissue. It’s a unique individual, with it’s own DNA and structure, created in the image of God.
    That’s why I don’t want any woman to be in a situation where abortion seems like her only choice…I think every pregnancy should be a wanted one. And perhaps, as kahri said, that’s too idealistic, but that doesn’t mean I’m going to stop striving for such a world. Women deserve reliable contraception, they deserve the right to choose whether or not to engage in sexual activity, and they deserve to NOT have to make the choice between career/education/economic wellbeing and motherhood. In other words, they deserve something better than abortion.
    *pulls out shield to deflect the inevitable flames*

  • johanna in dairyland

    This exactly. I would think that, especially in states such as ND where access to abortion is scarce, the amount of time one has to wait to just GET and appointment would give one DAYS to think about it. It’s not like there’s same-day drive thru abortion clinics … Like you said, adding a mandatory 24 hours between initial visit and abortion just further denies access to low income women.
    IMHO, coercing women into NOT having an abortion due to lack of access or financial resources is just as bad as coercing a woman to have an abortion against her will.

  • johanna in dairyland

    I think you’re about right …. as I was reading this, I thought back to my first appointment during this pregnancy – nine weeks – to early to detect a fetal heart tone with a handheld doppler. When I had my first ultrasound around 14 weeks, it still looked like a fish/alien/ Meatwad from Aqua Teen (maybe it was because it did the “for the shorties” wave with its flippers). I mean, I love it and I’m continuing the pregnancy, but I’m not sure it would have convinced me to change course if I wasn’t ready to have a baby.

  • kahri

    We don’t all believe that a fetus is a blob of tissue. I think it’s a living thing, but it’s life subject to the body, life, and choices of a woman.

  • kahri

    And I guess I don’t get the whole god hates abortion argument. The way I figure it is, if there really were a god and the god didn’t want a fetus to be subject to a woman’s body, life, and choices, then that god wouldn’t of arranged the whole gestation inside women thing. It would’ve figured on something else.

  • voluptuouspanic

    “If viewing an ultrasound or taking an extra day to think about her decision helps a woman choose to raise her child or give it up for adoption instead of aborting it, why is that such a horrible thing?”
    You can certainly hold this viewpoint. My beef with it, though, from another perspective is this: these kinds of laws re-enforce class distinctions (and class is innately tied to race and gender). Something like 87% of people don’t have an abortion clinic. Where I was, the nearest clinic was frequently a two hour drive for people. And that’s in a midwest state. If you have the ability to take off time from your job, then it’s not such a burden. But if taking off the four hours just for the abortion is already a huge burden, then the time needed to visit the clinic twice is incredibly burdensome.
    It’s fine, in my opinion, to believe women should be educated about their bodies and medical decisions, but these laws smack of sexism, racism, and classism.

  • voluptuouspanic

    I’ve read that waiting periods increase second trimester abortions (more risky and more expensive) and increase abortions in surrounding states. I think that was from Guttmacher.

  • saintcatherine

    I wonder if the problem could be partly solved by the “heartbeat”/waiting period part being done elsewhere, like if there were more clinics that could set up everything and refer you, but only the few that actually did the abortion.
    Also, I fail to see why requiring clinics to get a doppler machine would break the bank. You can get them yourself at Babies R Us for undre $100.
    (sonogram machines, though, would be a lot more expensive.)

  • Hrovitnir

    Do we really want people having babies because they guilt-tripped into it? Really?
    It pains me that people would support anything to convince a woman to keep her baby – yet people are so quick to bemoan neglect and overall poor parenting. Maybe if we stopped enforcing parenthood we’d have more enthusiastic parenting?
    If I get pregnant I would have an abortion. I do not view it as a natural consquence of sex because frankly on my end I would like my uterus removed. Apparently that’s not my decision, so I will do everything I can to avoid it but ultimately I am not having a baby, end of story.
    Putting myself in that role, I can imagine being overjoyed and loving being pregnant. Since I in no way shape or form want to do so the idea makes me sick to my stomach and hearing another heartbeat inside me would be as pleasant as finding out you have a giant, sentient, intestinal worm.
    It’s not fair. I have worked for the SPCA, I work for the vet clinic who does the euthanasia for the pound. As a human I acknowledge enough selfishness that I will put humans before animals if forced to, but at the end of the day I do not think an unwanted human is more important than an unwanted pet. Every dog, cat and domestic rat in the world exists because human’s wanted them for our own gratification, and we owe them care. Living in the real world, sometimes a pleasant death is all the care we can give them.
    Hence, after holding cats who have been abandoned, with fleas and worms and lice, rotten teeth and hyperthyroid and FIV, cats who were the cutest kittens, whose welcome ran out and they were abandoned and now are the most friendly, wonderful animals but no one wants them, after killing those cats and dogs and creatures who exist wanting nothing but your time and affection I will have no problem aborting a foetus. None.
    I am sick of emotional arguments. It hurts to kill animals, but you adjust. Not everyone has learnt to live with that pain, so they are told they’re killing their babies, beseeched to have empathy for their unborn child, and they give in because it hurts. THIS IS NOT A GOOD REASON TO HAVE A CHILD.
    I want every child to have a loving parent who wants to be a parent. This does not mean planned. This does not mean a nuclear family, or heterosexual parents. It just mean parents who want to dedicate their time, money, energy and life to a child. Every child deserves that.
    [/rant]

  • Jewell

    I’d also like to make a note that at the Red River Women’s Center in Fargo, ND abortions are only done on Wednesdays every week, so making an appointment and keeping it can be very difficult. I escort at the clinic every other Wednesday and I assure you, some of these women travel from clear across the state to receive an abortion. Truly I don’t know how many of these women handle the hardships in ND for women’s reproductive rights.

  • SarahMC

    OK. Give her about 9 mos. ;)

  • Synna

    [applause]
    Thank you.
    Guilt is never a good reason to do anything, especially parenting.
    I wish society would trust that women can make decisions in their own best interests.

  • Sam I Am

    Fargo love!

  • marissafromboston

    “Ultimately, I think that the common ground that most everybody can agree on is that abortion is NOT desirable or ideal, and that we should strive to make it so that no woman is ever in a situation where she feels that an abortion is necessary.”
    not everyone here feels that way. if i were to get pregnant right now, i would have an abortion tomorrow on my lunch break and think nothing more of it than if i had a mole removed from my back.
    i also have no moral issues with a woman who uses abortion as her primary method of birth control, if thats what she chooses.
    being a feminist is about choice and freedom for all women. its not about assuming you know whats best for all of them, or treating them as children, or regulating what they can and cannot do with their own bodies.

  • theotherf-word

    i was being lazy and simply paraphrased the main article: “Adding the equipment to allow women to hear the fetal heartbeat “would impose a high financial burden on the facility,” according to the center, which is working on behalf of the Fargo clinic.”

  • Bee

    I heard my daughter’s heartbeat at 10 weeks, which I think is pretty standard.

  • Mina

    “‘Ultimately, I think that the common ground that most everybody can agree on is that abortion is NOT desirable or ideal, and that we should strive to make it so that no woman is ever in a situation where she feels that an abortion is necessary.’
    “not everyone here feels that way. if i were to get pregnant right now, i would have an abortion tomorrow on my lunch break and think nothing more of it than if i had a mole removed from my back.”
    I can relate to “if i were to get pregnant right now, i would have an abortion tomorrow on my lunch break.”
    At the same time, I wouldn’t call it desirable or ideal, because what I desire for myself is never getting pregnant in the first place and so getting an abortion wouldn’t be ideal because something else (having my birth control succeed in the first place) would outrank it.

  • Mina

    “IMHO, coercing women into NOT having an abortion due to lack of access or financial resources is just as bad as coercing a woman to have an abortion against her will.”
    …and, for that matter, just as bad as coercing a woman or girl to get pregnant in the first place against her will (forced marriages, non-marital rapes too, unavailability of contraceptives besides abtinence too, etc.).

  • proudfeminist

    What is the big deal ? It is just one more set of medical equipment.
    I really doubt that an abortion clinic would go bankrupt if they have to take an ultrasound image.
    Also I somehow see a pattern here. I could be wrong, but it seems that pro life organisations get away with a lot in sparesly populated parts of the country, while in black neighbourhoods and big cities they are far more at ease. If one would be paranoid, one would think that abortion isnt so much about a womans choice, but about manipulating women into having the correct output depending on where she lives.

  • Mina

    “…Also I somehow see a pattern here. I could be wrong, but it seems that pro life organisations get away with a lot in sparesly populated parts of the country, while in black neighbourhoods and big cities they are far more at ease. If one would be paranoid, one would think that abortion isnt so much about a womans choice, but about manipulating women into having the correct output depending on where she lives.”
    Meanwhile, guilting someone in the name of an ethnic group into having a child she doesn’t want to have is still guilting someone into having a child she doesn’t want to have. Like Hrovitnir said above: “Not everyone has learnt to live with that pain, so they are told they’re killing their babies, beseeched to have empathy for their unborn child, and they give in because it hurts. THIS IS NOT A GOOD REASON TO HAVE A CHILD.
    “I want every child to have a loving parent who wants to be a parent. This does not mean planned. This does not mean a nuclear family, or heterosexual parents. It just mean parents who want to dedicate their time, money, energy and life to a child. Every child deserves that.”