Forced Ultrasound and Post-Ultrasound Waiting Period for Abortion Proposed in Tennessee
A bill has been proposed in the Tennessee legislature that would force pregnant women to obtain ultrasounds prior to having an abortion. The bill would also impose a 24-hour waiting period between the ultrasound and the abortion.
As introduced, requires that an ultrasound be performed prior to an abortion, with an exception for medical emergencies. The bill tries to avoid controversy about transvaginal ultrasound that has encouraged opposition to other forced ultrasound bills, by saying it should be an transabdominal ultrasound. This is still forced use of a medical procedure with absolutely no medical indication, and without any room for the judgement of the clinician or the specific separate consent woman seeking the abortion.
Women would be also forced to either view or listen to a description of the ultrasound, and to receive a printed copy. Hey, that will be super awesome for women who were raped, or have illnesses that prohibit pregnancy, or for whatever reason wanted but simply cannot continue the pregnancy! Let’s traumatize women so we can better control them!
It’s unclear how transabdominal (over the belly) ultrasound could even fulfill the other requirements of the proposed law, given that most abortions occur very early in pregnancy and the heartbeat and visible images required by the bill are probably not going to be technically possible transabdominally when those abortions occur. There is nothing in the bill language to address this scenario, so there’s reasonable concern that this could prevent abortions by making them impossible to obtain under these requirements.
I’m concerned that providers, fulfilling the requirement to keep copies of the ultrasound in the medical records, are going to be in a bind – if they document transabdominal ultrasounds that do not show anything they’re supposed to be describing (because the technology can’t), perhaps they’ll be penalized. If they want to document those physical structures with an ultrasound, they’ll have to go the transvaginal route in many cases. This puts providers in a bind for legal compliance while letting the politicians off the hook for potentially forcing women to have objects placed in their vaginas as a roadblock to legal medical care.
It’s also unclear how the 24 hour waiting period could be enforced. Tennessee, based on its constitution, has previously held such restrictions to be unenforceable. However, this is going to a popular vote next year, so the bill if passed could definitely become enforceable at that time. The waiting period provision could also be stripped or modified before the bill goes to a vote – I’m hoping to hear more about the implications of this part of the bill from knowledgeable folks soon.
The prime co-sponsors of the Senate bill at this time are all Republican women – Janice Bowling, Mae Beavers, and Dolores Gresham. Proponents of forced ultrasound bills often argue they’re needed so that women will really understand what they’re doing when they have abortions. I’d be interested in whether any of these women Senators would go on the record as stating that they think forced ultrasound is necessary because women who go for abortions simply don’t know that “pregnant” means “there’s a fetus in there.” Especially the 2/3 of women seeking abortions who are *already mothers.* I’m sure they have no clue what pregnancy is, and just turned up at the abortion clinic for ignorant funsies.
Please, Senators, come right out and tell your women constituents exactly how much you think of their mental abilities. You either think they’re stupid, or you’re simply trying to obstruct their ability to access a legal service however possible (while pretending it’s for their own good), or both. Come out and say it. You owe it to us when you’re trying to restrict our rights.
-Full-text of the bill as introduced
-State Sen. Jim Tracy Files an Ultrasound Before Abortion Bill – coverage at Pith in the Wind (Nashville, TN)