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.