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Most women go through with abortion even if they see ultrasound: Study

A new study reveals that almost all women who opt to see an ultrasound image of their fetus before having an abortion decide to go through with the procedure.

The research, which was published in Obstetrics and Gynecology in December 2013, included 15,575 women who planned to have an abortion at one of the 19 Planned Parenthood clinics in Los Angeles. 

The women were surveyed about how strongly they felt about wanting an abortion before their appointment. About 85.4 percent said they were sure about their decision, while 7.4 percent admitted they had medium to low levels of certainty that getting an abortion was the right choice.

The facilities routinely did ultrasounds before performing the procedure, but gave women the choice whether or not they wanted to see the image. Only 42.5 percent chose to look at the ultrasound.

Overall, 98.8 percent of the women went through with their plans. For the women who decided to look at the ultrasound, 99 percent still had the abortion. For those who asked not to see the images, 98.4 percent decided to go through with their plans.

Women who said they had doubts about whether they wanted the abortion were most likely to change their mind after seeing the ultrasound. However, the majority of them still went through with the procedure. About 95.2 percent of women who were unsure and looked at the ultrasound had the abortion, compared to 97.5 percent who were unsure and said they didn’t want to see the image.

In addition, women who were 17 to 19 weeks pregnant were 20 times more likely to decide not to get the abortion compared to women who were less than nine weeks pregnant.

There was no difference in rates for women who were sure about their decision and whether or not they saw the ultrasound or not

The authors said that women should have the option to see an ultrasound if they want to, but being mandated by law to view it was not advised. They hope in future studies to look at how viewing or not viewing the images affect the women emotionally.

"I think that when we start moving from a place where it's about a patient decision to a legal requirement, we're moving into the space that the literature around health suggests is going to have negative effects on women's health outcomes," author Katrina Kimport, an assistant adjunct professor at the University of California San Francisco School of Medicine, told Reuters.

CBS New York reported that 10 states require doctors to perform an ultrasound before an abortion and at least allow the woman to see the images if she wants to. Three of those 10 mandate that women have look at the ultrasound before going through with the procedure.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said in 2010 there were 14.6 abortions per 1,000 women between the ages of 15 and 44. Women in their 20s were the most likely group to have an abortion.

The abortion to live birth ratio was 228 abortions per 1,000 live births that year. The number of abortions was 3 percent lower than the previous year, and fell 9 percent since 2001.