Reproductive Rights Prof Blog

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CUNY School of Law

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Saturday, February 18, 2012

Virginia Pre-Abortion Ultrasound Bill Prompts Outcry

Virginia's bill mandating pre-abortion ultrasound is abhorrent. . .

Slate: Virginia’s Proposed Ultrasound Law Is an Abomination, by Dahlia Lithwick:

Under the new legislation, women who want an abortion will be forcibly penetrated for no medical reason. Where’s the outrage?

This week, the Virginia state Legislature passed a bill that would require women to have an ultrasound before they may have an abortion. Because the great majority of abortions occur during the first 12 weeks, that means most women will be forced to have a transvaginal procedure, in which a probe is inserted into the vagina, and then moved around until an ultrasound image is produced. Since 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, 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. . . .

. . . but it won't be the first such law:

Washington Post - Wonkblog: Is Virginia’s ultrasound bill the future of abortion regulation?, by Sarah Kliff:

A Virginia law that would mandate ultrasounds prior to an abortion is gaining steam — and coming under intense criticism — as it heads to Republican Gov. Bob McDonnell’s desk. Virginia’s House of Delegates and Senate have both passed the bill, while the governor has spoken favorably of the provision. . . .

The Virginia law is not, however, without parallel in the world of abortion restrictions. Ultrasound laws to limit abortion access began taking off in the 1990s and, according to the Guttmacher Institute, now stand in 26 states. Of those, a handful look a lot like Virginia’s: Seven states require an abortion provider to conduct an ultrasound and offer to show the image to the woman. . . .

See also: RH Reality Check: Virginia Delegate Says Mandatory Ultrasound Bill Will Turn Doctors Into "Criminals" Under the Law:

Next week, Virginia Delegate David Englin (D-45) plans to change the conversation around the forced transvaginal ultrasound bill (or as we believe it is more accurately described, the state-sanctioned rape bill) next week by addressing its potental criminality under Virginia's object sexual penetration statute. . . .

I think this depends, among other things, on whether a court would find implied consent on the basis that the ultrasound is a precondition to obtaining an abortion, which the woman could decline. It hardly seems fair to interpret a woman as "consenting" to such a procedure if the alternative is to forego an abortion, but it wouldn't surprise me to see a court distinguish the criminal statute on this ground.  After all, many lawmakers still seem to view forcible rape as the only "honest rape."

http://lawprofessors.typepad.com/reproductive_rights/2012/02/virginia-pre-abortion-ultrasound-bill-prompts-outcry.html

Abortion, Mandatory Delay/Biased Information Laws, Sexual Assault, State and Local News, State Legislatures, Targeted Regulation of Abortion Providers (TRAP) | Permalink

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Comments

I think many people, including women, who have never had a transvaginal ultrasound don't fully understand how humiliating it is. As an African-American woman, single, no dependents, I, like many others, have fibrocystic disorders in my reproductive tract. I had to have a transvaginal ultrasound to view the extent of my fibroid tumors and assess my treatment. Having never had it done before, I was shocked first viewing the probe and closed my eyes in silent panic while the procedure was performed. The technician who was female was supportive, attempting to coach me through it,but I just had to endure the probe moving left to right, right to left within my body. After the procedure, I dressed silently, took the information offered about my procedure, and returned to my car where I cried in the parking lot for a half hour. Transvaginal ultrasound is invasive and humiliating. Though my gynecologist thought it necessary for my health and did use the data to treat my problems, I don't know if I will ever agree to it again. Thinking about the procedure these past days has brought back feelings I had repressed for a while. It's just plain wrong to subject any woman to this procedure UNLESS her personal health depended upon it. Old white men need to sit down, go home and get out of women's health. They haven't a clue, a conscience,...or a heart.

Posted by: Angela Wells | Feb 20, 2012 9:13:48 PM

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