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That Magic Wand, Revisited

January 11, 2012

Yesterday, a federal appeals court decided that Texas can enforce its ultrasound law.

I have previously written about the misconception that this ultrasound law will prevent abortion. In that article, I talked about how people seemed to think that the ultrasound was the one that is done through the abdominal wall. Yesterday a friend of mine passed around an illustration which should show more clearly just what kind of ultrasound we are talking about here.

If it wasn’t clear before, I hope that it is more clear now just what this law is forcing doctors to do. Texas has passed, and a federal appeals court has upheld, a law which is nothing more than state sanctioned sexual assault of women. A woman who has no desire to have a trans-vaginal ultrasound prior to her procedure has no recourse. She must either submit to having a probe inserted into her vagina or not have the procedure in a medically licensed clinic at all.

This bill claims that it is to “help” women to consider the repercussions of their abortion. The hope is that if a woman “truly knows” what is inside her uterus, she will change her mind. The attitude that a woman getting an abortion doesn’t really know what she is doing is one that reduces her to a stupid, helpless, child. An impulsive twit who needs a waiting period so she won’t wake up one morning and decided to have a quick abortion before getting her pedicure.

Leaving aside the appalling attitude that anti-choicers have about women, there is this shining, fluffy nebulous idea that this will somehow change a woman’s mind. A New York Times article on the subject of pre-abortion ultrasounds included quotes from clinic workers which disproves this theory.

In one of the few studies of the issue — there have been none in the United States — two abortion clinics in British Columbia found that 73 percent of patients wanted to see an image if offered the chance. Eighty-four percent of the 254 women who viewed sonograms said it did not make the experience more difficult, and none reversed her decision.

It is true that women sometimes change their mind prior to the procedure.  Usually, these women are clearly unsure about having an abortion and need someone to verify that she is there willingly. This is the sort of thing that can be better achieved with intake counseling. No state sanctioned sexual assault required.

However, I am willing to admit that this law will prevent women from getting abortions at medically licensed clinics. What it will do instead is force women into those non-licensed clinics which promise a quick and easy abortion. There has been more than enough historical and contemporary examples of just how horrific these unlicensed clinics can be. Instead of preventing abortion, this law simply starts us down the path towards the back alley abortions that were common before Roe v Wade. Pro-choice advocates have been saying for years now that banning abortion does not prevent abortion from happening. Women who are determined to have an abortion will find a way. They always have, they always will.

Finally I am a little concerned about the wording of the federal appeals court decision. There is text which seems to imply that this court believes that a fetus is a separate entity from its mother. An entity in which the state has a vested interest in protecting. Frankly, this wording makes me worried for the penultimate outcome of a Supreme Court challenge of this law. It frightens me to think that there are judges out there who genuinely believe that the fetus has more rights than the woman carrying it. And this does not bode well for those of us who believe that a fully grown woman should have more rights than a cluster of cells inside her body.

5 Comments leave one →
  1. Anna permalink
    January 11, 2012 8:36 pm

    A fetus is a baby. It deserves to live, except in cases of rape, incest or extreme health issues which would be fatal to the fetus or mother.

    There is always adoption, and plenty of people who would love to take care of that child if that woman would just carry the baby for nine months.

    • Anna permalink
      January 11, 2012 8:37 pm

      … that sounded silly …. I just think they ALL deserve to live, BUT in extreme cases such as the ones above, then it should be considered but not always acted upon.

      • Danielle permalink
        January 12, 2012 7:17 am

        And your opinion is just that, and the choice you will go with for you. It doesn’t mean that the hard truth for you is that women will make their own decisions no matter what you think and making it difficult for them to abort will not make them come to the light, it will just make them go to dangerous and unsanitary conditions to do it. If you don’t believe me check out abortions before they were legal.

    • January 11, 2012 8:57 pm

      A fetus is not a baby. A fetus is a fetus. It is a long way from being a baby. Given that the religious beliefs alone on when life begins ranges from “conception” to “first breath,” there is a serious problem with people who decide that their ideological belief should be enshrined into law and forced onto other people who believe differently. This doesn’t even begin to cover the ranges of scientific belief. In my book, the person who is best qualified to decide what happens inside a uterus is the woman to whom it is attached.

      And unless you’ve been pregnant yourself, I’d be a little less casual about suggesting that a woman “just” carry it around for nine months. Pregnancy is hard and even in first world countries like ours, it is dangerous. Especially if you are a lower income woman who can’t afford insurance, let alone pre-natal care. The list of women in my life who have had their pregnancies end in horrible complications is currently eight. If I thought about it harder, that number would probably be higher. A fetus is not a babydoll tucked up under a woman’s shirt for a few months. It gets heavier, shoves organs around, sucks nutrients from her body, and then PAINFULLY forces its way out at the end. There is no JUST about pregnancy.

  2. Jennifer permalink
    January 14, 2012 12:44 pm

    And the legal terminology would give the fetus more rights than the woman, and since the fetus needs a woman’s body to survive, is the court saying that cancer has the same option? Fact is that some women’s bodies actually reject pregnancy as it is considered by the body as an invader…I never get people trying to force their will on any one else’s body. I believe that for the most part women that choose abortion have a good and valid reason for them, and what of all the babies that have been kept and adopted that are abused? What of all the babies that were kept and are in worse circumstances than we would find in some third world countries? People only look at one aspect… You’re taking a life, but if you think about it we wouldn’t have as many unwanted pregnancies if people would stand up and teach their daughters that it’s their body and if they are going to have sex that they need to be responsible, and in the 1% fail rate of most birth control methods, then make informed choices but do not force me to have something done in order to enlighten me, or my daughter. If I’m doing my job as a parent, if she gets pregnant it is her choice and her consequences, not yours and not mine. Unwanted pregnancy in any situation is not ideal, however, if we insist on giving rights to a cluster of cells that wouldn’t survive outside the mother’s body then we have to give cancer the same consideration, but we don’t.

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