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Abortion in America
Ultrasound Innovation May Change Abortion Debate

An unlikely factor may be about to change the abortion debate: technology. According to MIT’s Technology Review, entrepreneur Jonathan Rothberg has just raised a million dollars from investors like Stanford University to start making a new portable ultrasound machine. He became interested in a new ultrasound device because one of his daughters has tubular sclerosis, and frequently needed to use ultrasounds in her diagnosis and treatment. Rothberg was not impressed with how cumbersome and expensive existing technology was, so he “set out to make a super-low-cost version of this $6 million machine, to make it 1,000 times cheaper, 1,000 times faster, and a hundred times more precise.”

That sounds like a tall order, but Rothberg has had previous success with two DNA-sequencing companies and has assembled talented tech gurus for this new endeavor. More:

Rothberg won’t say exactly how Butterfly’s device will work, or what it will look like. “The details will come out when we are on stage selling it. That’s in the next 18 months,” he says. But Rothberg guarantees it will be small, cost a few hundred dollars, connect to a phone, and be able to do things like diagnose breast cancer or visualize a fetus. […]

Ultrasound is used more often by doctors than any other type of imaging test, including to view a baby during pregnancy, to find tumors in soft tissues like the liver, and more recently to treat prostate cancer by heating up cells with sound waves.

Though Rothberg’s interest lies more in diagnosing tumors and other ills, the implications for the abortion debate may be huge. Historically, ultrasounds have played a large role in discouraging abortions. Ultrasound machines have produced famous converts to the pro-life cause—Bernard Nathanson, who founded NARAL, became actively pro-life after seeing an ultrasound—and though studies don’t show ultrasounds as having the dramatic influence that some might like, it is clear they do convince at least some women not to abort.

This new invention, should it launch well, could make ultrasounds more widely available. Every CVS clinic could have this machine, and it would be far cheaper for traditional doctors’ offices and other medical providers, too. That, in turn, could encourage more women to get one, potentially lowering the abortion rate in the country.

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  • Boritz

    Send the machine to the people who are in charge of voting machines in North Carolina and it won’t show anything a liberal would object to.

  • RKae

    You could show them video of babies in the womb playing a hand of Texas Hold ‘Em, and they’d STILL say, “Oh, that’s just involuntary twitching! They’re not alive!”

    They don’t back abortion because of any evidence or lack of evidence regarding the life of the fetus. They back it because they HAVE to. Their sexual ethic depends on it.

  • Corlyss

    Ultrasound Innovation May Change Abortion Debate

    I’ve been hearing this for 30 years now.

    • teapartydoc

      They have to be forced to look before they kill. Some will do it anyway, as shown by late-term and partial birth abortions and the panicked killing of newborns we see in the news every day. Technology is a tool, like a gun, there is nothing inherently moral or immoral about things, per se, it is how we use them that makes the difference. Chances are, with the way things are spiraling toward a more evil world, this will be used to make sex-selective abortion more common.

      • RKae

        Technology can indeed be an exclusively evil tool. Unless, of course, there’s a benevolent use for a weaponized virus.

        The technology used to tear a human being to pieces is evil.

  • teapartydoc

    I think you mean tuberous sclerosis.

  • theBuckWheat

    We can count on the FDA forbidding people from being able to ultra-sound their own bodies. After all, these devices must only be used by those who are properly trained and properly licensed, and above all the device must pass rigorous certification testing. Above all, government must protect us from anything that will make the raw truth about pregnancy too easily available to young women.

    • Loader2000

      There is a thin line. The FDA can forbid the manufacturer from ‘saying’ or advertising that the device can be used for diagnosis. This would include preventing the manufacturer from including some sort of diagnosis guide in the instructions. However, the FDA cannot prevent people from using device, especially a non-invasive one like this, and the FDA cannot prevent the manufacturer from showing ultrasound pictures of different kinds of tumors in the instruction manual as long as they say something to the effect of, “If you see something that looks like a tumor, consult a doctor, this device is not purposed for diagnosis”. Such a device would still be incredibly useful and could lead to early detection of all kinds of problems. It could also swamp doctor’s offices with people wanting to know what that weird shape was in their ultra-sound, “Ma’am, that is your gall bladder, not a tumor!”

  • Pattycake

    I think this will further encourage sex selective abortions in cultures that have a male child preference just as widespread ultrasound technology has done so in India and China.

  • FriendlyGoat

    Ultrasounds, if less expensive and more available, may reduce the number of abortion decisions. They do not change the debate which is about whether any such decisions are permitted to women by their legislatures.
    Conservatives have always believed women cannot choose whether they will deliver babies. They may soon get a new tool to advance their argument that women cannot choose whether they will deliver babies. There are always going to be people on the other side who have no intention of seeing 40 years of women’s choice overturned.

    Decisions may sometimes turn on the availability and quality of pictures. The debate about whether legislatures can preempt the decisions of every last woman in the first place does not turn on this at all.

  • MarleeBetts

    Ultrasound is used to view inside the body as it provides images by using high-frequency sound waves. The images are captured in real-time so they are able to show body’s internal organs movement along with blood flowing through the blood vessels. It doesn’t need ionizing radiations like X-ray imaging. There are different types of ultrasound machines designed by medical device manufacturers; however, they all have the same principle. They help physician to evaluate, diagnose and treat medical condition before the problem get out of reach.

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