Saturday, February 18, 2012

Virginia's State-Sponsored Rape Law

I'd heard vague mention of Virginia's proposed "Want an abortion? Have an ultrasound" bill. I admit it didn't get far into my consciousness. I thought it was just another unreasonable impediment placed in the way of a woman wanting to do what she thinks is best for herself. It was obviously worse than a 24-hour waiting period or a forced reading of a fake side effect list, because it would cost money.

But I didn't realize how much worse it was.

Because if your pregnancy is at less than 12 weeks gestation -- as most terminated pregnancies are -- the ultrasound that's required isn't the familiar technique where a technician moves a sensor around on the woman's stomach. No. It's this:

Medical diagram of transvaginal ultrasound, with ultrasound wand inserted into a woman's vagina
The medical term is "transvaginal ultrasound,"and it is just what the picture shows.

Now, I'm a 50ish woman and I've had my share of pelvic exams. The speculum took a little getting used to at first, back when I was about 20. I've given birth, with all of the attending loss of body modesty that accompanies pushing out a 10-pound baby.

But having this type of ultrasound (which I had about a year ago) is the worst medical procedure I've had that I've been conscious for. Because of the shape of the "wand," as it's euphemistically called, the feeling that it's unwanted intercourse is pretty hard to avoid.

And I was voluntarily having the test, to find out something I needed to know. Hearing about the Virginia law, which is hard to call anything but state-imposed rape, literally makes my heart pound as adrenaline or stress hormones or something begin to spill into my system. My hands are shaking.

Virginia's legislature passed this law last Monday and the governor has spoken of it favorably.

Cartoon by Clay Bennett of an armored Christian crusader -- shield labeled Culture War -- with his morning star bashing in his own head
Pictured above: The the only possible upside of this law. (Cartoon by Clay Bennett, Chattanooga Times Free Press.)


Ms Sparrow said...

What the heck is the reasoning behind this--other than the obvious punitive factor? It strikes me as contradictory that the state with the most liberal gun laws (which contribute to gun violence and deaths) is so gung ho to protect zygotes and embryos. Talk about misplaced priorities!

Nancy/BLissed-Out Grandma said...

If men got pregnant....

peppery said...

Grotesque. I think that even if these ultrasounds are supposed to serve as a last-ditch shaming/awareness technique, I think it ultimately shows that the proponents don't understand the adaptability of humans, and how much we hate being told what to do. Thanks for posting about this.

peppery said...

Also! My husband pointed me to this PBS transcript, which states:

According to the Guttmacher Institute, which studies reproductive health issues, Texas is the only state that effectively enforces a transvaginal ultrasound before abortions.

Sometimes I see Texas ultra-conservatives as the annoying hipsters in the ultra-conservative/Tea Party political world.

peppery said...

Aaaand I forgot the link. Sheesh.

Virginia Proposal Mandating Ultrasound Before Abortion Debated