Indiana Lawmakers Advance Measure Requiring Transvaginal Ultrasounds For Abortion Pill

By Samantha Abernethy in News on Feb 22, 2013 9:40PM

Indiana lawmakers advanced a measure that would require women seeking to obtain abortion-inducing drugs to undergo an ultrasound before and after taking the pill. Physicians say in order for an ultrasound to be successful, it would have to be performed transvaginally, by inserting a probe to the vagina.

The Indiana Senate Health and Provider Services Committee approved Senate Bill 371 by a 7 to 5 vote and sent it to the state senate for a full vote.

The measure would require women seeking medication abortions (RU-486) to undergo the same procedures as women seeking surgical abortions.

Women seeking a surgical abortion in Indiana must undergo an ultrasound. Medication is generally used to induce abortion when the pregnancy has progressed less than 10 weeks from the woman's last period. At that time, early in the pregnancy, an external ultrasound does not produce a picture, and the woman would be forced to submit to an ultrasound via transvaginal probe.

Then, after taking the pill, the woman must schedule a followup appointment for a second transvaginal ultrasound. Physicians interviewed by the Indy Star said SB371 adds invasive, unnecessary procedures. The Indianapolis Star writes:

“I can only assume that the ultrasound mandate — a mandate for a costly, invasive test that confers no medical benefit to the woman subjected to it — speaks to the lack of clinical understanding and expertise of the authors of the bill,” [Dr. Brownsyne Tucker] Edmonds wrote. “If not for lack of understanding, I would have to conclude that the mandate speaks to a lack of regard for the bodily sanctity and integrity of Hoosier women at large.”

SB371 would also require clinics distributing abortion-inducing drugs to meet the same standards as a surgery. That would require structural changes like wider hallways, which could force some at least one clinic to close.

Senator Vaneta Becker (R-Evansville) opposes the bill and told Indiana Public Radio that it would ultimately affect low-income women. “All this bill’s going to do is to encourage low-income women to go the Internet, that way there won’t be any type of follow-up care for them if they have a crisis.”

Furthermore, she says the proponents of the measure are mostly men who haven't had the displeasure of experiencing a vaginal ultrasound, "And so maybe we should see if we can work on that as well.”

In response, Indiana Right to Life legislative director Sue Swayze said, “I got pregnant vaginally. Something else could come in my vagina for a medical test that wouldn’t be that intrusive to me. So I find that argument a little ridiculous.”