Emily Ramshaw’s New York Times report on new abortion regulations in Texas, “Required Delay Between Sonogram and Abortion Creates Logistical Issues,” made the national edition Sunday. In an odd twist for the liberal Times, Ramshaw lamented the plight of abortion clinics having to comply with regulations. And isn’t it ironic for the pro-regulation Times to criticize a “bureaucratic nightmare”?
Ramshaw is a reporter for the Texas Tribune, a left-leaning nonprofit news organization based in Austin that has a content partnership with the Times. Back on September 30, 2011 she filed “Few Bright Spots in Perry’s Health Care Record,” a negative piece on Texas governor Rick Perry, at the start of Perry's brief presidential campaign.
On Sunday she reported on new state abortion rules (which require Texas abortion clinics show mothers images of their unborn children) from the abortionists' perspective. Thirteen paragraphs of the 20-paragraph story were devoted to the side of the clinics, which are now obliged to show "pregnant patients the image of the fetus" (that is, to show the mother-to-be her developing baby). Although each side was represented by two sources, Ramshaw’s story was told from the perspective of Amy Hagstrom Miller, an owner of several abortion clinics.
Moments after Amy Hagstrom Miller heard the news earlier this month -- that a panel of federal judges had directed Texas to immediately enforce the most controversial tenet of the state’s new abortion sonogram law -- her phone started ringing. It was the doctors who perform abortions at the five Whole Woman’s Health clinics she founded in Texas, confirming that they had to start showing their pregnant patients the image of the fetus and playing the fetal heartbeat.
For Ms. Hagstrom Miller and many abortion and women’s health providers statewide, performing these sonogram-related actions is an affront -- to patients who have thought long and hard about their decisions, and to doctors who believe they are not medically necessary. The constitutionality of the practice, which supporters say is the only way to ensure that women know the consequences of their decision, is still being challenged in court.
But the sonogram itself -- which abortion clinics say they already perform and show to any woman who asks -- is far from the most complicating element of the new law. This past fall, doctors were required to start performing a transvaginal sonogram at least 24 hours ahead of an abortion, a shift they say has had frustrating consequences for clinics and patients.
Ramshaw gave abortion opponents two paragraphs, and summarized the rationale behind the delay: “Abortion should not be held to a lower standard than any other surgical procedure...” Then she passed the handkerchief back to the clinic owner, and Planned Parenthood. How often do you see the pro-regulation Times lamenting a “bureaucratic nightmare”?
For the clinics, however, it has been a bureaucratic nightmare. Now the physician performing the abortion -- not an ultrasound technician, for example, or a secondary doctor -- must conduct the sonogram on a separate day, a scheduling struggle when doctors providing elective abortions are in short supply and rotate between clinics.
“They’ve had to set aside a whole other day doing ultrasounds, visits that in most parts of medicine would be dedicated to people with less training than a physician,” Ms. Hagstrom Miller said. “The effect on their travel schedule, on their reimbursement, on patients’ access to them has been tremendous.”
For the patients, the process of obtaining an abortion has lengthened. Instead of having a sonogram and receiving an abortion in a single day, they must spread out their visits, often taking a second or third day off of work, paying double for transportation and child care, and delaying the procedure. Ms. Hagstrom Miller said that on a recent weekend, a family played soccer all day in a nearby field while their mother waited to have an abortion.