Forced Ultrasounds for Abortion in Oklahoma – Because Your Government Can Demand That An Object Be Inserted Into Your Vagina
I’ll admit that I haven’t been furiously blogging about every single anti-woman bit of legislation to roll through each of the 50 states this year, because there’s simply too much of it, and I generally assume that the most ridiculous of them will never make it out of committee. I also have a bit of fatigue from all of the proposed bills which seem to have as their underlying premise the notion that women are somehow intellectually deficient as a sex, and I think many of the arguments I would make have been reasonably hashed out elsewhere.
There is one recent state law, however, that I feel compelled to point out, even if other bloggers have already thoroughly covered it, because I have readers who aren’t likely to visit many of the feminist blogs where this has been discussed. Late last month, the Oklahoma legislature passed a bill that would require women to have an ultrasound performed prior to obtaining an abortion (and it’s not the first state to do so). The Governor vetoed the legislation, stating that, “this legislation does not provide an essential exemption for victims of rape and incest. By forcing the victims of such horrific acts to undergo and view ultrasounds after they have made such a difficult and heartbreaking decision, the state victimizes the victim for a second time. It would be unconscionable to subject victims of rape and incest to such treatment. Because of this critical flaw, I cannot in good conscience sign this legislation.” The legislature then overrode the veto, making the bill law.
Oklahoma’s Governor, however, missed one crucial element in explaining his veto. The law states that, one hour prior to beginning the abortion procedure, the provider must “Perform an obstetric ultrasound on the pregnant woman, using either a vaginal transducer or an abdominal transducer, whichever would display the embryo or fetus more clearly.”
Let’s just take a moment to get this straight. Sometimes an ultrasound is performed prior to an abortion. Sometimes this ultrasound is a transvaginal ultrasound because it may offer a better view. The exact percentage of times an ultrasound is performed, and how often that ultrasound is transvaginal, is almost irrelevant from one perspective, although early abortions (which most abortions are) will require the transvaginal route. What is relevant is that the law, as written, has no regard for the clinician’s judgment or the woman’s consent – it is aimed only at getting the best picture of the embryo or fetus.
It inserts the government into medical decision-making with no regard for the patient, and is based on the premise that women seeking abortion simply have no idea what they’re doing, and so might need to be informed that there’s actually something in their uterus. I think they know that, or they wouldn’t be at the abortion provider in the first damn place.
This law takes away a woman’s ability to refuse consent to an ultrasound or method of ultrasound and a provider’s judgment about the type of ultrasound needed (and if it is needed) in order to perform a legal medical procedure, for the sole purpose of making sure a woman can see her soon-to-be-aborted fetus, which she likely could have done anyway if she desired – although the law allows her to “avert her eyes.”
But lets get back to the transvaginal vs. abdominal issue. Given the likelihood that the transvaginal ultrasound would “display the embryo or fetus more clearly,” Oklahoma’s legislature has mandated that a woman seeking abortion have an object (what couples blogging about fertility call a “dildo cam”) inserted into her vagina.
Let that sink in. The state has effectively mandated that women seeking an abortion have an object stuck in their vaginas. Whether they consent to that specific thing or not, because they can’t have the procedure they did consent to if they don’t. Whether the provider believes it is medically necessary to stick the object in her vagina or not. Because these women might not know what they’re doing, might need to be emotionally coerced, might be too stupid to understand what an abortion clinic actually does.
I’ve written before about how coerced ultrasounds are a long-standing tactic of anti-abortion activists, who believe that women who see an ultrasound will suddenly *get it* (again, because they couldn’t possibly have known what they were doing) and flee from their decision. As I wrote in the past, “A woman may feel warm and fuzzy at the point of the ultrasound, but that feeling is not going to support her through the pregnancy, is not going to erase poverty, abuse, rape, or health concerns that may cause a woman to choose abortion. It’s not going to help her finish high school. It’s not going to be accompanied by information on all of her options, but is going to be used as part of a campaign to get her to have a baby.” If you think this law has anything whatsoever to do with protecting women in a legitimate way or the legitimate practice of medicine (as performed through abortion services), you have not been paying attention to the political maneuvering going on around this issue. So here we are. Apparently Oklahoma legislators believe coercion is an appropriate use of medical technology, consent be damned, and that effectively assaulting/raping women with an object is an appropriate use of their power.
More commentary on this:
-An ob/gyn notes at Alternet that the fine for not complying is greater than the fine for negligent homicide
-From the same physician as above, a list of what’s wrong with this law
–Amie Newman at RHReality Check says that anti-choice advocates pushing ultrasound measures are “pretending to care about women’s health and well-being when in fact they are using precious legislative, human and financial resources that could be funneled towards laws and advocacy that actually help women; laws that expand health care coverage, protect women from domestic violence, provide needed resources for child-care and more.”
–Lindsay puts it more succinctly than I could: “‘Excuse me, lady, you say you want an abortion. Did you realize that there’s a fetus in there? You don’t know what you’re doing. Let me stick this tube into you, so that you can be competent to make a decision.'”
–Aunt B notes, “If a woman’s boyfriend or husband said ‘If you want an abortion, you have to let me put my dick or my finger or this dildo inside you first, until I’m satisfied you understand what you’re doing,’ we would have no problem–I don’t believe there’s a person reading this who can’t understand how wrong that would be–no problem at all calling that the evil it is, regardless of what you believe about abortion.” Also, please see Bridgett’s comments about cost.