Tom Cruise Causes California Ban on Private Ultrasounds

California is about to ban private ownership of ultrasound machines on the unlikely grounds that Tom Cruise will set a trend.

The California Assembly has voted to restrict the use of ultrasound machines for personal use, approving a bill that would allow them to be sold only to licensed professionals. Democratic Assemblyman Ted Lieu introduced the bill after “Mission: Impossible III” star Tom Cruise bought an ultrasound machine to see images of his unborn child. The actor’s fiancee, Katie Holmes, gave birth to the couple’s daughter, Suri, last month in Los Angeles.

Doctors and technologists typically receive years of training to perform ultrasound exams, which help obstetricians check a baby’s health. Cruise was criticized by doctors who said improperly using the devices can harm a fetus. Lieu said his bill was intended to prohibit copycats from using the devices at home. An ultrasound machine listed on the online auction site eBay was selling for $5,500 Wednesday. “What we don’t want is someone who unintentionally damages the fetus,” Lieu said Thursday on the Assembly floor.

Who, aside from a crazy Hollywood actor with more money than brains is likely to buy an ultrasound machine for private use?

FILED UNDER: Health, Popular Culture, , , ,
James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College and a nonresident senior fellow at the Scowcroft Center for Strategy and Security at the Atlantic Council. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm vet. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.


  1. yetanotherjohn says:

    It just so happens we have one of those infernal machines in chez yetanotherjohn. Of course my wife is the one who uses the machine, she has a four year degree in ultrasound, over 20 years in the field and she uses it in our mobile ultrasound business. But as I am not a crazy hollywood actor, unfortunately have much more brains than money and have the machine for “private use” (aka not part of a government entity), I guess that would answer your question.

    By the way, I would suggest the assemblyman check the research on ultrasound. While prudent medical practice calls for no “unnecessary” ultrasounds, I am not aware of any studies showing even the potential for harm from modern ultrasound machines. Some of the early 1950 models with a lot more power and a continuous emitter might have been a problem, but that would be a bit like questioning the safety of automobiles based on a corvair study.

  2. cirby says:

    The other bit is that ultrasound machines are usually considered to be completely safe, with the theoretical risks only showing up after extended continual exposure (10 hours+) or extremely high settings with long exposure.

    25 years of ultrasound studies, and so far, most of the risks are still theoretical.

  3. James Joyner says:


    I was unaware, until reading your comment, that there was such a thing as a “mobile ultrasound business.” By “private use,” I meant “repeated personal use on the same Thetan.”

  4. Mook says:

    So why do the Californian libs care if a Mother wants to looks in her body with an ultrasound. How dare they limit what a woman can do. There is no harm to a fetus. Who cares about the fetus anyway its not human and if it does get hurt… just abort it.

    Come on Lets get to the real subject. This is about the limitation of a woman’s right to do her own ultrasounds at home.

    Shame on anyone who would stand in the way of a woman’s right to pier in on the fetus she will soon abort.

    California… Please.Symbols over substance.

  5. yetanotherjohn says:


    Yes, private mobile ultrasound business is small but definitely there. In our business case, the clients are animals, not Thetans. She takes the machine to different vet clinics, scan Fluffy for tumors, foreign objects, pregnancies, internal bleeding, problems with organs, etc. Shes scan lions, tigers, snakes, frogs, etc but the bread and butter is dogs and cats.

    But having had to fight the Texas legislature on a similar law, I suspect that the California assembly would be as ignorant as you on the existence of the market and randomly squash the mobile ultrasound services by not excluding them from the law.

    One of the best stories out of the business was when a high school kid brought in the family dog. Something was wrong with the pooch, his parents were out of town and had left him to watch the house and the family pet. My wife scanned the dog, determined there was some sort of foreign body in the stomach, but couldn’t determine what it was. The boy and his girlfriend were brought in to see the ultrasound picture and hear the options which were essentially a four digit surgery or the animal dying. Immediately upon seeing the picture, the boy recognized a stylized V mass in the picture as a Victoria secret medallion from his girl friend’s thong panties. Surgery revealed that the thong was being stretched as one part was staying stuck on the stomach input and the other part was exiting the stomach. I suspect that the parents were especially proud to know how responsible junior had been in taking care of their pet when they got back. About $1,500 dollars proud. I of course advance no theories on how a young man, left at home by his parents would find himself in the predicament of having his girlfriend’s thongs be ingested by the family dog.

  6. floyd says:

    SO!! ultrasound IS dangerous then?!

  7. Kathy K says:

    No, Floyd, it’s ingesting Victoria’s Secret thongs that is dangerous. The ultrasound is just the messenger – don’t blame the messenger…

    It’s too bad his girlfriend didn’t wear some of those edible panties instead…

  8. floyd says:

    kathyk; i guess my sarcasm is is more subtle than yours[lol]mook; you probably don’t remember when people checked their shoe-fit [and lots of other silly things] with “harmless” X-RAY machines!still; if tom wants the machine he should have it. he’ll lose interest in his new toy soon , then maybe it’ll go for charitable use of some kind.