The prestigious New England Journal of Medicine on February 17, 1983, published an article, pointing out the tremendous implications that the ultrasound procedure may have on society. The article was written by Ethicist John C. Fletcher, Ph. D., from the National Institute of Health Bethesda, Maryland, and Dr. Mark I. Evans from the George Washington University Medical School. Neither of the authors is known to have any particular position on the abortion issue.
In this article, they stated that ultrasound may have long-term social and ethical consequences owing to the fact that viewing the baby, even before movement is felt by the mother, creates a bonding between the mother and child. As a result, abortion becomes an unacceptable alternative. Already some communities and even one American state, have debated proposed legislation requiring that a picture of her unborn baby be shown to the woman who requests an abortion.
Further, viewing the unborn child by ultrasound, may well lead to the affected unborn child being treated for a disorder rather than being almost automatically destroyed because of it, as is the case now. In other words, the unborn child may become a patient to the physician, with a treatable disorder which renders abortion far less acceptable.
Finally, the ultrasound procedure makes clear for the first time, the stages of human existence “prenatality”, and it will inevitably, change society’s desire to protect this state of life as later stages of life are so protected.
It took many centuries of cultural and biological evolution before childhood was viewed as a differentiated stage of life with its own requirements and authenticity. Ultrasound, together with other fetal technologies could lead to our understanding of the first stage of our life, i.e., prenatal life.
What lies in the future? Clearly, ultrasound may well become a powerful weapon in the moral struggle to save the lives of the unborn child.