In Wednesday's Tribune, columnist Eric Zorn writes that even as the "Ultrasound Opportunity Act," a bill church leaders are now lobbying heavily for in Springfield, is dressed up in the high-minded language of sound medical practice, leaders are open about the fact that its real purpose is to persuade women seeking abortions to change their minds at the last minute.
"We have studies and statistics that show something north of 80 percent of women (seeking abortions) who view ultrasounds of their babies decide against abortion, which is why we've gone this way," said Catholic Conference spokesman Zach Wichmann during a news conference at the Capitol last week.
Laws linking abortion and ultrasound imaging — in which the fetal shape and some anatomical details are visible — are among the latest tactics in the fight against abortion. Since the mid-2000s, 21 states have enacted a variety of mandates, according to the Guttmacher Institute, a private, nonprofit reproductive health research organization.
The bill in Illinois is one of more than two dozen now seeking to impose or expand the use of ultrasound in crisis pregnancies. See the national rundown of laws and legislation here.
Ours — House Bill 786 — is on the moderate end. As proposed by downstate Democratic Rep. Brandon Phelps, it requires that a woman seeking an abortion six weeks or more into her pregnancy be offered the "opportunity to receive and view an active ultrasound of her unborn child" at the clinic.
Officials at Guttmacher, which favors abortion rights, report that bills now pending in a handful of states mirror a law in Oklahoma that not only mandates the ultrasound test, but requires that the video screen be placed where the woman can see the images during the procedure, and that the woman listen to a technician narrate what's on the screen.
Guttmacher officials dismiss as anecdotal and unscientific claims that women who view ultrasound images late in the process are statistically less likely to ultimately obtain an abortion.
But why doesn't the Illinois bill try to force women to watch and listen?