Mandatory Ultrasounds, Including "State Rape" Ones, Are Multiplying, Not Going Away

Think the end of the transvaginal ultrasound in Viginia is victory on this issue? Think again. Many other states have similar laws on the books, and Texas has, for several weeks, had the specific transvaginal ultrasound requirement. But even without the transvaginal part, mandatory ultrasound laws are deeply problematic, intrusive and patronizing.

There's a lot of good writing on this issue today that I'd like to highlight:

Melissa McEwan has one round-up of some of the laws on the books---and proposed:

In Alabama, State Senator Clay Scofield, a Republican man, "is pushing SB 12 [which] would mandate the physician 'to perform an ultrasound, provide verbal explanation of the ultrasound, and display the images to the pregnant woman before performing an abortion.' The physician could also require the woman to submit to a transvaginal ultrasound—'in which a probe is inserted into the vagina, and then moved around until an ultrasound image is produced'—if she or he determines it necessary."

In Idaho, Senate Assistant Majority Leader Chuck Winder, a Republican man, is "sponsoring a bill to require women to have an ultrasound before receiving an abortion... The measure does not specifically mention transvaginal ultrasounds...but would leave it up to a doctor and the patient to decide which ultrasound would be best."

These laws are bad. At Raw Story, Kay Steiger describes why the new bill introduced in Pennsylvania may be the worst yet:

The legislation is designed with so many difficult and differing restrictions that long-time abortion policy analyst Elizabeth Nash at the Guttmacher Institute told Raw Story, “I’ve never seen anything like it.”

In addition to mandating the much-maligned transvaginal ultrasound requirements since rejected by the state of Virginia, Pennsylvania legislators proposed strongly encouraging women to view and listen to the ultrasounds, forcing technicians to give the women personalized copies of the results and mandating how long before any abortion the ultrasound much be preformed — and that’s just for starters. 

There's more to these laws than meets the eye--at base, they center around harassment, shame and treating women as easily manipulable. 

As Irin Carmon notes in Salon, many such bills and laws arise from boilerplate legislation from Americans United for Life, templates that are fanned out to conservatie legislatures.The problems with their ideology go deep.

Although some abortion providers choose to perform ultrasounds as a matter of course, the pro-choice movement opposes forced ultrasounds because they override the doctor’s discretion and the doctor-patient relationship, in a manner that is not only condescending to the woman’s preferred course of action, but also often requires a greater outlay of time, sometimes an entire extra day, as well as money. Not only do they not change anyone’s mind, ultrasounds stigmatize and intimidate women who are already under stress. 

Finally, at the wonderfully titled "Keep Your Boehner Out of My Uterus" tumblr, blogger ScatX explains the difference between an ultrasounds your doctor requires and one that the state mandates:

In the case of these transvaginal ultrasounds, the state says that the person who wants the abortion cannot legally to consent to the decision of whether to be penetrated. They will be penetrated, via the state, if they want the abortion. The consent is for the abortion, not the penetration. The state has, effectively, removed the right to consent.

No, your doctor probably would not have done your surgery if you had not consented but that was between your doctor, who has medical knowledge and expertise and a personal relationship with you, and you.

While this may seem a small distinction, it is an important one.

The post also notes that this issue of consent is what makes all ultrasound requirements problematic.

The good news? The "transvaginal" provisions may have woken the wider population to the patronizing, paternalistic aspect of these ultrasound mandates.

AlterNet / By Sarah Seltzer

Posted at February 28, 2012, 8:14am

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