An article in Slate today, "Virginia’s Proposed Ultrasound Law Is an Abomination", has touched a sensitive nerve. As many of you may realize (I know personally most of my readers) I was once a doyen of ultrasound scanning, world famous in Australia you might say (apologies to Mel Brooks for stealing his line). I did lots (hundreds) of scans in early pregnancy way back when and know more than a little about the technicalities of the points raised by the author of the article, Dahlia Lithwick. Be notified that I am in no way disputing her overall opinion and am a staunch supporter of women's right to choose.
She says that the requirement to perform a transvaginal ultrasound scan means that there is now a legal requirement to perform rape - state-sanctioned rape.
...that means most women will be forced to have a transvaginal procedure ... With a proposed amendment to the bill—a provision that would have had the patient consent to this bodily intrusion or allowed the physician to opt not to do the vaginal ultrasound—failed on 64-34 vote. A special ultrasound transducer is placed into the vagina in order to get a clear view of the uterus. The law provides that women seeking an abortion in Virginia will be forcibly penetrated for no medical reason. I am not the first person to note that under any other set of facts, that would constitute rape under state law.
She rightly argues that if it becomes a legal requirement to to a transvaginal scan it would be a straight forward case of rape.
However, I am of the professional (woah!) opinion that an abdominal ultrasound scan (probe - pushing hard - on the lower abdomen) would be perfectly adequate in many cases. And a scan might be done anyway, even without this law, to confirm the gestational age (important).
A transvaginal scan might only be required if the woman is greatly obese. (Hang on 99% of American women are, so...) Perhaps the argument that the woman is going to be penetrated unnecessarily and undoubtedly against her will, raped indeed, might not be as strong as stated in this, and the linked article. Meh.
There are all sorts of reasons for a woman to prefer not to continue a pregnancy which I don't need to go into here, but forcing her doctor to rape her, and then, by making her listen to the heartbeat and look at the screen (the "egg-as-a-person" trick), to make her feel that she is a bad person when she may not be, goes against her legal and moral rights. How could the state sanction rape?
To me, this law is the equivalent of the stoning of adulteresses and the harsh punishment of victims of rape in those regions where Sharia law is full implemented.
It also reminds me of the arguments used to justify US's forced sterilization programmes in the 1920's and 30's, as described in Edwin's Black's book (yes, I've read it - fascinating and terrifying) and discussed in the award-winning documentary War Against The Weak.
Here's a quote from Bob McDonnell, governor of Virginia and possible vice-presidential candidate: it seems a blatant attempt to grab the conservative, bible-belt vote:
“I think it gives full information,” he said this week on WTOP radio’s “Ask the Governor” program. “To be able to have that information before making what most people would say is a very important, serious, life-changing decision, I think is appropriate.”
My emphasis. I would argue that a termination is not life changing for the woman who makes this choice, but rather enables her life to continue as it was. It's a non-changing choice, thank you very much. I consider this a reasonable and essentially correct state of affairs.
Now continuing with the pregnancy, that is a life-changing situation, and I can vouch for that!
This is a separate issue to the ongoing one about insurance coverage for contraception , etc...