Despite the amount of attention is has received over the last half century, the abortion debate remains shrouded in ignorance. To bolster their case, abortion rights advocates regularly cite majority opposition to overturning Roe v. Wade, the Supreme Court's 1973 abortion ruling that struck down nearly all restrictions on the practice. But they never mention that most Americans have no clue what would happen if Roe were overturned (Abortion law would fall back to the states to decide individually.) Instead, they advance the idea that if Roe were overturned, the country would be transported back to the era of wire hangers and back alley abortions.
Much of the public is clueless about fetal development as well. Most people aren't all that knowledgeable about how the human person develops en utero, and abortion advocates are partly to blame for that ignorance.
In a recent New Yorker piece, Margaret Talbot, in reviewing some newly released books on abortion, attempts to explain why the abortion rate has declined in recent years. She homes in on informed consent laws, including ultrasound laws, which mandate that women considering abortion be given an opportunity to view an ultrasound image of their gestating child. "Mandatory ultrasound laws are insidious," she writes, because "they proceed, first of all, from the notion that women don't realize that in choosing an abortion they will be ending some form of life, however they think of that life."
But abortion advocates have spent decades arguing that a fetus is nothing more than a "clump of cells" or a "product of conception." They refuse even to consider the humanity of the fetus. Partly as a consequence, only about half of Americans know that life begins at conception.
From a certain perspective, informed consent laws are obtrusive and intrusive. But from another they are merely an acknowledgement that an abortion is not a normal medical procedure, that it involves something serious and grave and thus is a decision not to be made lightly. Talbot calls her own abortion many decades ago "as consequential" a decision as any she made as a young person. These laws are simply a recognition of that truth.
In a debate that remains obscured by ignorance, ultrasound, by providing a window into the womb, can offer some much needed clarity.
Daniel Allott is deputy commentary editor for the Washington Examiner