Beyond political claims: women's interest in and emotional response to viewing their ultrasound image in abortion care

Perspect Sex Reprod Health. 2014 Dec;46(4):185-91. doi: 10.1363/46e2414. Epub 2014 Sep 10.


Context: In the United States, abortion opponents have supported legislation requiring that abortion patients be offered the opportunity to view their preprocedure ultrasound. Little research has examined women's interest in and emotional response to such viewing.

Methods: Data from 702 women who received abortions at 30 facilities throughout the United States between 2008 and 2010 were analyzed. Mixed-effects multinomial logistic regression analysis was used to determine which characteristics were associated with being offered and choosing to view ultrasounds, and with reporting positive or negative emotional responses to viewing. Grounded theory analytic techniques were used to qualitatively describe women's reports of their emotional responses.

Results: Forty-eight percent of participants were offered the opportunity to view their ultrasound, and nulliparous women were more likely than others to receive an offer (odds ratio, 2.3). Sixty-five percent of these women (31% overall) chose to view the image; nulliparous women and those living in a state that regulates viewing were more likely than their counterparts to do so (1.7 and 2.5, respectively). Some 213 women reported emotional responses to viewing; neutral emotions (fine, nothing) were the most commonly reported ones, followed by negative emotions (sad, guilty, upset) and then positive emotions (happy, excited). Women who visited clinics with a policy of offering viewing had increased odds of reporting a negative emotion (2.6).

Conclusions: Ultrasound viewing appears not to have a singular emotional effect. The presence of state regulation and facility policies matters for women's interest in and responses to viewing.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Abortion, Legal / legislation & jurisprudence
  • Abortion, Legal / psychology*
  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Choice Behavior
  • Decision Making
  • Emotions*
  • Female
  • Government Regulation
  • Grounded Theory
  • Happiness
  • Humans
  • Politics
  • Pregnancy
  • Regression Analysis
  • Surveys and Questionnaires
  • Ultrasonography, Prenatal / psychology*
  • United States
  • Young Adult