From Alternet: http://www.alternet.org/reproductivejustice/154412/why_do_right-wing_extremists_have_the_power_to_force_doctors_to_humiliate_women/
Legislators are using the mandated ultrasound to scare, insult and humiliate women.
By Amanda Marcotte
March 6, 2012
March 6, 2012
Of all the words one could have guessed that would completely shift the public discourse, “transvaginal” probably wouldn’t have rated very high before the month of February. Yet that simple word managed to finally draw national attention and outrage to an issue pro-choicers have been trying to highlight for years now -- the anti-choice enthusiasm for passing laws requiring women seeking abortion to endure harassment ultrasounds before being allowed to abort unwanted pregnancies.
Anti-choicers claim the laws are necessary for “informed consent,” an argument that bafflingly presumes that women seeking abortions aren’t aware that they’re pregnant. Pro-choicers correctly point out that the laws are both about putting obstacles between women and abortion, and most importantly, forcing unwilling doctors to convey the legislators’ intent to shame and harass women for getting abortions. But this debate about consent and the difference between medically necessary procedures and nuisance ones was hard to get across to the general public. That is, until the word transvaginal came into the picture, after legislators in Virginia tried to join states like Texas in requiring a mandatory ultrasound for abortion.
Once the word got out -- aided by Amy Poehler’s hilarious rant on “Saturday Night Live” -- the ugliness behind the requirement became crystal-clear. The visual image of an 8- to 10-inch probe entering a woman’s body neatly symbolized the pro-choice argument that the legislators passing this law are prurient misogynists who want to poke around in a woman’s most intimate decisions for no other reason than to shame and punish. Since that punishment involved literally penetrating a woman’s vagina, the comparisons to rape were obvious. Supporters of the bill just made it worse for themselves by trotting out the “she was asking for it by not being a virgin” excuse when this was pointed out to them, with Dana Loesch memorably suggesting that if you willingly have sex with a man, you forsake your right to say no to any form of penetration ever again.
Unfortunately, anti-choicers exploited the hazy area between the symbolic and the literal in response to the outcry. Virginia legislators didn’t retract the bill, but instead simply rewrote it to make the vaginal probe optional. Doing so implies that the only important objection to the bill was the physical act of penetration, when in fact for pro-choicers, the issue has always been about consent and a patient’s right to a safe and welcoming environment when she seeks care, even abortion care. Because the shame-and-blame ultrasound is on the tummy instead of in the vagina doesn’t really make it any better, since the objection is to legislators turning doctors into their surrogates, forcing the doctors to act out a ritualized shaming of abortion patients, even when doctors don’t think there’s any reason for an abortion patient to be ashamed.