Women would be forced to have invasive, medically unnecessary transvaginal ultrasounds two hours before having an abortion if Republicans in Michigan get their way. A male Republican in Michigan’s state House of Representatives introduced a bill earlier this week similar to the one Virginia eventually backed-off of last year after public outcry.
Currently having an ultrasound before an abortion in Michigan is optional, but the new Michigan bill would make it mandatory. The bill does not specifically refer to transvaginal ultrasounds; rather, it refers to simply a “diagnostic ultrasound examination” which “provid[es] the most visibly clear image of the gross anatomical development of the fetus and the most audible heartbeat.” The policy director for NARAL Pro-Choice America, Donna Crane, confirmed to politics blog Talking Points Memo that this refers to a transvaginal ultrasound. Elizabeth Nash from the Guttmacher Institute confirmed the same sentiment to Salon.com.
Requiring women to have ultrasounds — the regular, on-the-belly kind (“transabdominal”) — before abortions is a favorite tactic of anti-abortion folks. They believe that women will change their minds about terminating an unwanted pregnancy if they see their fetus onscreen or hear a heartbeat. That’s why numerous states try to force women to view ultrasounds and even hear detailed descriptions of their fetuses before an abortion. Both Michigan and Pennsylvania even wanted women to be given two printed-out copies of their ultrasound. Anti-abortion activists are keen on using Orwellian phrasing for this type of legislation, ignoring the cruelty and emotional manipulation inflicted on women and claiming they have a “right to know” what their fetus looks like. Even if she’s a victim of rape or incest. Indeed, Michigan’s bill includes language about “consumer protection” for women and “fully informed consent to the abortion.” I suppose making an appointment for an abortion, driving to an abortion clinic, and putting your feet in the stirrups/acquiring a prescription for the abortion pill is not enough consent for these folks?
Transvaginal ultrasounds go the extra step of being unnecessarily physically invasive to women (didn’t you know, the state controls your body?), plus provide more detailed onscreen imaging for the ultrasounds. Additionally, NARAL’s Donna Crane pointed out to Talking Points Memo, the transvaginal ultrasound equipment is more expensive, which puts an additional financial burden on abortion providers.
Have you ever had or watched a transvaginal ultrasound? I have. I watched my sister get a consensual transvaginal when she was pregnant with my nephew. The woman lies back while the medical professional inserts a long probe into her vagina, which then reflects the ultrasound onscreen. I actually fainted during this procedure, because I’m squeamish, but also because it’s rather intense. You can watch Frisky contributor Megan Carpentier have a medically unnecessary transvaginal ultrasound on camera and describe the experience here, which she called “uncomfortable to the point of being painful” and “emotionally triggering (and undoubtedly it is moreso for victims of rape or incest or any woman in the midst of an already-emotional experience)”:
If, like my sister, you want a transvaginal ultrasound to get a clearer picture of your fetus, by all means go for it. But it’s not a pleasant, delightful experience to have to go through when it is both medically unnecessary and unwanted.
And that’s exactly the way anti-abortion Michigan pols like it.
Contact the author of this post at Jessica@TheFrisky.com. Follow me on Twitter.