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Friday, June 22, 2012

No one wants to give that impression.



Interesting piece by pro-choice author Jeannie explaining why mandated transvaginal ultrasounds should not be likened to rape.  I don't agree with her on every count--for example I don't see how anti-abortion folks are to blame for imagery purported by abortion rights activists--but I still think her overall message is valid, particularly her 3rd point.
Arguments that metaphorize—that symbolically associate—the ultrasounds to rape are dangerous in three ways. First, they demonize healthcare providers. This, I am sure, is a planned effect of the anti-abortion politicians’ strategy. Just days after the Virginia governor refused to sign the transvaginal ultrasound law, a prominent anti-abortion website ran a story about the percentage of abortion clinics that use transvaginal ultrasounds, suggesting that these providers are, indeed, rapists. I believe we have played right into their hands.

Second, the association of transvaginal ultrasound to rape serves to demoralize women who have these ultrasounds. Imagine that you are a pregnant woman in Virginia, at your doctor’s office (for either an abortion or prenatal care). Your doctor says to you, “Your abdominal ultrasound is inconclusive. We’re going to try a transvaginal ultrasound to see if we can get a better picture, OK?” You’ve heard the words “invasive” and “shove” and “rape” used to describe this procedure by everyone from the left to the right. How are you going to react, at this already-emotional moment? Are you going to think, my doctor is doing the best she can for me right now? I don’t think so. I think you will be scared and angry and possibly too overwhelmed to know what to say. This, too, is part of the anti-abortion politicians’ strategy: all women should be ashamed and afraid, unable to make our own decisions.

Third, the metaphorization of transvaginal ultrasound to rape euphemizes, or makes less awful, rape in a way that I personally find offensive. Seriously, I don't know anyone who describes her rape experience as clinical in any way—and that's the inverted implication of the metaphor. We must be very careful, when we make our arguments, that we do not invoke a message that hurts other women, even inadvertently. Now, I know that no feminist who has made this argument has intended to promote a message that rape is not so traumatic, but isn’t that where the argument ultimately goes? This metaphor says to women who have experienced rape, “Your experience is really no worse than what happens to other women at the doctor’s office.” I know no one wants to give that impression to anyone.
(Emphasis added.)

18 comments:

Richard Fingerhut said...

Clearly we need another word for non-consensual penetration of the vagina. Rape doesn't really carry the connotations we're looking for.

How about just calling it forced vaginal examination? is that better? how about unrequested penetration? state mandated examination?

maybe we should couch it in terms of legal vs illegal, like the militiamen and Ron Paul supporters describe undocumented immigrants. HOW ABOUT LEGAL ABORTIONS VS ILLEGAL ABORTIONS??

"We're just following the law here, take your pants off"

We have to change the message, this isn't about the state sponsored shaming of women to dissuade them from getting abortions, this is about assuming that they can't make choices for themselves and they need to be forced to see that what they're doing is toddler genocide.

praise jesus.

LN said...

Great post, agree with all points above, particularly the last one.

Jameson Graber said...

I swear, sometimes I think this site gets more trolls than actual comments.

I find it pathetic when pro-choicers try to use the language of libertarianism to back up their support of abortion. The state shouldn't "force" a woman to get an invasive procedure, and so on. Never mind that abortion itself is an invasive procedure, and having all the facts about said procedure might be important before having it done.

Then again, I'm not sure I understand what pro-lifers hoped to accomplish with this proposed legislation. No one on the pro-choice side is going to find it to be a neutral way of giving more information to women. I understand the desire to try to shape women's behavior through regulations, but I'm not sure how effective it really is politically.

Anonymous said...

Do you understand why it might be wrong to do something against a woman's consent? You know that this is the point at issue?

If a woman wants to have an abortion, it's not a procedure forced upon her against her will. Why? because she consents to the procedure.

You've clearly have had issues with getting a woman to consent to doing anything with you, so I empathize with your inablility to grasp why women are so offended by this republican legislation.

JoAnna Wahlund said...

If a woman refuses to consent to necessary medical diagnostic procedures prior to surgery, it's not safe for her to have that surgery. Consent to an abortion --> consent to all necessarily medical procedures that make the abortion as safe as possible.

It's like if I told the doctor I wanted to have a C-section but I did not consent to anesthesia. No doctor in his/her right mind would operate on me if I did so.

Transvaginal ultrasounds are simply the gold standard of medical care when it comes to early pregnancy. Why do you favor making abortions less safe?

M said...

I don't think it gets *more* trolls. I think it gets the same one or two trolls who are just very attentive. :P

Anonymous said...

The author is mistaken. It's not "metaphorical" but actual; a nonconsensual vaginal probe fits exactly the legal definition of rape in the Virginia statute criminalizing rape. Read the statute. And if the probe is not medically necessary, it doesn't fit into the medical exception in the statute. The recently passed legislation, as I understand it, would require a probe whether diagnostically/medically necessary or not.

Anonymous said...

at what point did it become medically necessary to clamp-open a woman's eyes and force her to look at ultrasound images of the fetus? Your assertion that this procedure is necessary for anything other than shaming and humiliating women who don't want to be mothers yet is a clear indication of your depraved disingenuousness.

Anonymous said...

You do know that there are examples of women who have died and who have had serious complications with their abortion because the doctor DID NOT perform an ultrasound prior to the procedure. Furthermore, there are many abortion providers who require, for this reason, that an ultrasound be done prior to an abortion, for the reason given above - it can save a woman's life. Also, as far as I know (and please correct me if I am wrong), ultrasound laws simply make the doctor legally obligated to show the women the ultrasound should she agree to see it - if she refuses, the ultrasound still must be done, but she is NOT required to look. And I think that's a good thing, considering there have been cases in Canada (and I am sure elsewhere) where women have requested to view their ultrasound prior to an abortion, and the medical professional refused to allow them to see it.

Anonymous said...

Same Anonymous as above folks ... sorry for the convoluted sentences. Proofreading was not my friend :S

Kara said...

I'd say I agree, that forcing a woman to have something jammed up her, is in fact, rape.

But no woman or man is being forced to have something jammed up him or her.

Ultimately a woman who chooses to have an abortion is consenting to a procedure, that is invasive. Even in the case of using the abortion pill, a woman has to sign off saying that if there is a problem with the pill, if it doesn't work, or doesn't work fully, she will consent to having the surgical procedure done. This a fact of the procedure.

Nobody is forcing a woman to have a trans-vaginal ultrasound. Nobody whosoever! When she chooses to have an abortion, she is consenting to that invasion of privacy. She will have, or will consent to having instruments jammed up her.

The argument is a red herring. It adds no additional invasion than the procedure itself does, and yes is often preemptively medically beneficial anyway.

And ultimately, in a society that respected all forms of human life, we would not even be having this conversation. There would be no such thing as a forced ultrasound.

Richard Handler said...

Forced vaginal penetration is rape, but when the state mandates a vaginal probe ultrasound for women who want to get abortions, it's not rape because the woman was basically asking for it when she decided that she didn't want to give birth.

Perfectly reasonable, I'll add this to my repetoire of slurs and verbal attacks as I hound women approaching the planned parenthood clinic in my area. Because seriously, the only way to stop the murdering of innocent fetus babies is to relentlessly harass, humiliate, punish, and duress women that might think it's okay to reject what god gave them.

Jimmy Rustler said...

potential complications involving a late-term abortion do not need to be viewed by a transvaginal probe. The legislated medical procedure is only mandated to insure that women are forced to look at a picture of a fetus before they abort it. The goal of this law is to duress, humilate and shame women because they want to have an abortion. Go take your right-wing authoritarianism and shove it up your arse.

LifeChoices said...

Consenting to one invasive procedure does not imply consent to any or all other invasive procedures, unless those procedures are medically necessary. If your doctor--as regulated by your state's medical board--doesn't find that procedure to be medically necessary, your government has no grounds to mandate it. Few, if any, of our senators have medical degrees. Until the vast majority do, they should not be micromanaging my doctor.

If your senator mandated an unnecessary manual rectal exam before you were allowed to have heart surgery performed, you would swiftly realize that one invasive procedure does not justify another... Or even if your doctor just made you undergo multiple unnecessary Pap Smears--you'd have a justifiable complaint for being subjected to multiple invasive vaginal procedures, even if you consented to the first, necessary, invasive vaginal procedure.

LifeChoices said...

"[A] prominent anti-abortion website ran a story about the percentage of abortion clinics that use transvaginal ultrasounds, suggesting that these providers are, indeed, rapists. I believe we have played right into their hands."

Only because that website fails to understand the difference that consent makes. Forced sex = rape does not mean that sex = rape. When your opponents don't see a difference between "forced sex" and "sex"--or between "government-mandated, medically-unnecessary vaginally-invasive procedures" and "medically-necessary vaginally-invasive procedures"--that's not the fault of the pro-choice side.

"Second, the association of transvaginal ultrasound to rape serves to demoralize women who have these ultrasounds."

No reason why it should, anymore than the association of penises with rape demoralizes women who willingly have intercourse. There's nothing wrong with TVUs. And there's nothing wrong with manual rectal exams. But there's something wrong if your doctor is doing an unnecessary one. And there's definitely something wrong if your senator is mandating your doctor to do so against his or her will.

"The metaphorization of transvaginal ultrasound to rape euphemizes, or makes less awful, rape."

As someone who was raped, I disagree. Any unwelcome and unnecessary invasion of a person's body is a kind of rape. Whether your rape leaves long-lasting physical and mental scars or merely leaves you shocked and shaken for a few minutes; whether your rape involves a penis or a finger or a TVU wand; whether your rapist is a stranger or a husband or a friend--none of these undermines rape. In fact, considering that the cultural narrative of rape as something that only legitimately happens with strangers in dark alleys, acknowledging multiple forms of rape can only be helpful. More people would report rape--and more people would believe reports of rape--and, hopefully, maybe even fewer people would rape, if people understood that you can rape and be raped by a variety of people with a variety of instruments in a variety of settings.

If my doctor had me submit to a second Pap smear for no medical reason--just because he wanted to touch me again--it would be rape. If he did it (again, without medical necessity) because his supervisor blackmailed him into doing it, it would still be rape. If he did it because his senator threatened him into doing it, it would still be rape. It's no different with TVUs.

Anonymous said...

When all this went down I thought to myself "Self, Woah! why aren't abortion providers doing ultrasounds anyway? Seems it would be important to confirm location and development etc in order to perform a safe abortion." So I called my local planned parenthood. Their messaging service detailed the procedure I would undergo were I ever to choose an abortion. Clear as day it was stated that ultrasounds are always done before and after EVERY abortion. Almost immediately after I heard that , apparently a journalist had been on the same beat and quoted that message too. Once it was in print though a conspiracy minded commenter said " Well, it's certainly deleted now. " I called P.P. back to check. It was. Politics < open honesty to the public. :-(
After doing more homework I found that there was never the option to say "no" and have your abortion. If you refused the transvaginal
( virtually no one does, btw ) which is what all abortion clinics not run by malpractitioners use in early term pregnancy, the policy is that the patient be told to wait until the fetus is bigger and can be viewed by the abdominal ultrasound.
Essentially doctors that are worth a damn mandate transvaginal ultrasounds on all abortion patients. Always have- always will.

Doctors who hold their patient's ultrasound at an angle specifically to distort and then lie about the age of their fetus *this happened* or kill or injure them because they didn't use ultrasound and catch an ectopic * this happened too* can now be held accountable!
Women are NOT forced to see the ultrasound- the doctor is forced to perform that already standard medically responsible procedure and document the ultrasound picture, development and gestational age. Yay! This protects women from butchers. For planned parenthood the law changed NOTHING- except maybe the mandated conversation: " do you want to see it?" "no." "ok"
For bad docs it changes what needs to be changed in the interest of women's health. The abortion industry has been too long unregulated and the doctors not held accountable when they do things other docs would get the book thrown at them for. Why? Because of politics . In the interest of keeping it legal and completely out of the govts hands, the safe part of legal- safe- and rare has been compromised. Yet " we need it legal so that's it's safe" is the rallying cry. Ugh.

Anonymous said...

edit: mandate TVUs on all early term patients, ultrasounds on all patients...

Anonymous said...

Lifechoices. The point is, an ultrasound is so medically necessary practitioners at P.P. will not give an abortion without doing one before and after. If early term it's transvaginal everytime or no abortion. The law only mandates what responsible doctors mandate. If it's rape for one it's rape for the other. :-(