Wasteful mandated medical spending

As the New York Times noted earlier this week, over the past several years many states have enacted laws that either suggest or mandate that a woman be administered an ultrasound before getting an abortion. The thinking is that, by giving women a view of the being inside them, the mother will rethink her decision and not go through with the abortion itself.

By that standard, how effective are these laws? Ummm, not so much:
In one of the few studies of the issue — there have been none in the United States — two abortion clinics in British Columbia found that 73 percent of patients wanted to see an image if offered the chance. Eighty-four percent of the 254 women who viewed sonograms said it did not make the experience more difficult, and none reversed her decision.
Wow. Zero. Not a single one. Even I had expected for there to be a couple here or there, but that wasn't the case.

According to the Guttmacher Institute, there were about 26,000 abortions performed in the three states that the article notes require a provider to perform an ultrasound before an abortion (Louisiana, Alabama, Mississippi). If you go with an average cost of $300 for a fetal ultrasound (I found estimates between $200-500, so $300 is a conservative guestimate), this means that these states are requiring providers to spend $7-8 million on a procedure that, in every case, does not serve its intended purpose.

Of course, this is a drop in the bucket compared to the $28 million that Florida would mandate if Governor Charlie Crist signs a bill that the state congress has passed, though signs are that he will veto the bill.

Proponents of these laws will point to the fact that, as noted in the Times article, ultrasounds are performed by clinics in most first trimester abortions, and say that this does nothing that wouldn't already be performed. But this is a false equivalency. When a clinician orders an ultrasound, it's because a medical professional has made a decision - which they were trained in graduate schools to make - that there is a medical need or purpose to perform the procedure. When an ultrasound is mandated by one of these laws, it's driven by the desire to dissuade a woman from going through with an abortion. It's not medical, it's ideological.

(Incidentally, for those republicans that went off on how health care reform would put the government between you and your doctor, I'd like for them to explain how this isn't exactly what these laws are doing).

If proponents of these types of laws are driven by any sort of evidence-based beliefs, they would look at this study and decide that this isn't working, and pick another battle. That they want to push this to even more states shows that this isn't about results; it's about shaming.

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