A new breed of legislation is sweeping the nation. 20 states, according to the Guttmacher Institute, have legislation in place that employ ultrasounds as part of the abortion process. In ten of these states, the ultrasound is required, and in one of them, women must view the image and endure a description by the physician. Subtle, isn’t it?
The Texas lawman seems the worst of the bunch here. Not only is an ultrasound required in the Lone Star State, it comes in the form of an intrusive probe. A transvaginal ultrasound is literally when the doctor sticks a probe into the woman in order to create a sonic image of the fetus. There is no way around it, and should the woman choose to exercise her right to choice, she is then served the image along with a description as a side. Only under certain circumstances can the woman choose to skip this patronising process.
The only two other states to require transvaginal ultrasound are North Carolina and Oklahoma. On March 28th a state judge in Oklahoma declared the law unconstitutional and permanently blocked enforcement of the law after a lawsuit filed in May 2010 had rendered it useless. In North Carolina, their mandatory ultrasound/screening party has been on hold since October 2011. In Texas, however, the law was upheld by Chief Judge Edith Jones of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 5th Circuit in January, making Texas the only state to do so.
Here’s a look at some other laws requiring ultrasounds that have been enacted over the years:
Alabama: The ultrasound is required, but out of the kindness of his heart, State Senator Clay Scofield declared that the woman can use a "method of ultrasound that she would be more comfortable with." No vaginal probes necessary.
Illinois: The "Ultrasound Opportunity Act" was advanced in February by the House Agricultural Committee. Not much else needs to be said, other than this.
Virginia: Ultrasound is required, however, just like Alabama’s, the woman can opt out of the transvaginal procedure for a less invasive one.
A more detailed report by the Guttmacher Institute can be found here.
So what’s the backlash about? To many people, rape is simply the invasion of one’s body without consent, and the additional requirement in many of the bills that the ultrasound be a vaginal probe seems to have touched this nerve in many people. A doctor posting anonymously exclaims that, “Fellow physicians, once again we are being used as tools to screw people over.” Women are furious (rightfully so - they really aren’t livestock), as are many of the practitioners forced to carry out this procedure on other people.
An abortion is a difficult enough choice as it is. There is nobody, no matter how casual the sex might have been, who can make the decision to abort a child with a simple wag of the finger. Forcing a woman to undergo an ultrasound and, in some cases, to view the image and listen to a description is painfully humiliating burden. It strikes a similar chord as the medieval public humiliations, where the criminal is forced to look long and hard in the mirror as others hurl stones and insults at him or her. But we aren’t in the Middle Ages, and we sure as hell aren’t (or shouldn’t be) into shaming our own citizens - so why the transvaginal “I told you so?”