Scott Walker Says Forced Ultrasounds Are "Lovely" And "Cool" & It's Exactly As Tone-Deaf As It Sounds
Cats are cool. Patti Smith is cool. Sipping an old fashioned on a city rooftop is cool. Forced ultrasounds are not cool, despite what Scott Walker, Wisconsin's apparent designator of All Things Cool, seems to think.
In 2013, the Wisconsin governor signed a bill mandating that pregnant patients receive an ultrasound — either transvaginal or abdominal — before an abortion procedure, except in medical emergencies or when the patient is a survivor of sexual assault. Under the new law, abortion providers must give "a simultaneous oral explanation during the ultrasound"; display the image for patients, though patients won't be penalized if they decide to look away; provide a medical description of the ultrasound image, "including ... a description of any viewable external features and internal organs of the unborn child"; and offer a means to visualize the fetal heartbeat, if detectable.
When the bill came across his desk nearly two years ago, Walker said the new measures, including the display of the images and heartbeat, would improve "a woman's ability to make an informed choice that will protect her physical and mental health." But now, the possible 2016 presidential candidate admits the forced-ultrasound law may not be about women's health at all — it's really just a "cool" thing to not only undergo as a patient, but also to show off afterwards to all your Facebook followers.
In a recent interview with conservative radio host Dana Loesch, Walker defended the onerous law by making some unrelated point about how people like to show off their ultrasounds in this digital age:
The thing about that, the media tried to make that sound like that was a crazy idea. Most people I talked to, whether they’re pro-life or not, I find people all the time that pull out their iPhone and show me a picture of their grandkids’ ultrasound and how excited they are, so that’s a lovely thing. I think about my sons are 19 and 20, we still have their first ultrasounds. It’s just a cool thing out there.
Who wouldn't want to undergo a transvaginal ultrasound while having a script read to them designed to discourage the medical procedure you're about to have? It's totally a "lovely" measure that's not meant to demean or shame patients seeking an abortion.
But Walker, who is staunchly anti-abortion, also admitted that maybe the ultrasound law wasn't written with women's health, safety, and ability to make informed decisions in mind. The governor told Loesch he approved the law as a way to purposely curtail the number of abortions in Wisconsin.
"We just knew if we signed that law, if we provided the information, that more people if they saw that unborn child would make a decision to protect and keep the life of that unborn child," Walker added.
The problem here for Walker is that government-mandated ultrasounds, particularly when they offer to display the ultrasound image, largely have no effect on a patient's decision to either continue or terminate the pregnancy. A massive study published in the journal Obstetrics & Gynecology in 2014 found that viewing the ultrasound had no impact on women who were certain in their decision to have an abortion. According to the researchers, who looked at medical records from nearly 16,000 visits, patients opted to view the ultrasound image 42.5 percent of the time. Out of those women who viewed the image, 98.4 percent of pregnancies were terminated. For women who didn't view the image, 99 percent of pregnancies were terminated — revealing almost no change at all.
Researchers agreed that women who are unsure in their decision to have an abortion may be slightly swayed by the image. However, it doesn't have such a sweeping effect as many anti-abortion advocates have hoped when drafting these bills.
At this point, it's also impossible to tell if Walker's theory — that the ultrasound law is resulting in fewer abortions — is working. The Wisconsin Department of Health's most recent data is from 2013, the same year the law was instated. There were 6,462 abortions reported in Wisconsin in 2013, down from 6,927 in 2012.
Planned Parenthood Action Fund President Cecile Richards said in a statement sent to Bustle:
Women are very clear that forced government ultrasounds are not ‘cool.’ Forced ultrasounds are intrusive and invasive and they put politicians into medical exam rooms where they don't belong. Scott Walker's remarks are appalling, but the real problem is the record behind his words. As governor, Scott Walker has dismantled women's health care in Wisconsin, and as a result thousands of women have lost access to lifesaving cancer screenings, affordable birth control, and safe and legal abortion.
Images: Whole Woman's Health Baltimore, Getty Images (2)