If Republican ideology could be boiled down to one idea, it would be this: Laissez-faire. Minimum interference from the government in the every-day person’s everyday life.
Unless you happen to be a woman who lives in the state of Virginia. In that case, the government is only too willing to snap on the latex gloves and start sticking its hands where they don’t belong with bill 462.
House bill 462 is a Republican mandate that forces women to undergo an unnecessary ultrasound before having access to an abortion. As of yesterday, a woman seeking to terminate an unwanted pregnancy in Virginia will have to make two trips: One for counselling and an abdominal ultrasound, and one for the abortion. That’s offensive enough, but it could have been even worse.
The original bill required doctors perform a transvaginal ultrasound on women: In that case, a probe, called a transducer is inserted into the vagina. To phrase it another way, a foreign object would have been inserted into a woman’s vagina regardless of whether she wanted it there or not. Worse yet, that violation would have been supported by the government.
Thankfully, the vocal outrage of women’s groups and democrats caused the bill to be amended to its present state.
It’s hard not to agree with Senator Janet D. Howell’s assessment: The original bill was like “state rape,” the improved mandate the equivalent of “state assault.”
Yet, there still might be some who think that doesn’t sound so bad. A bit of jelly on the belly, two trips, and you still have your choice. Some might even agree with anti-abortion activists who claim that by allowing a woman to know the gestational age of the foetus, she is able to make a better-informed choice.
Don’t be fooled. The goal of anti-choice activists has always been eliminating access to abortion.
The Guttmacher Institute, an NPO advancing reproductive health, notes that in states where women are required to take two trips the number of abortions has declined. Likely, some women don’t have the financial resources to arrange for both an ultrasound and an abortion. The same decline will probably begin to occur in Virginia: An event that some anti-choice activists will celebrate, but a loss of choice that many will miss.
But let’s look again at the argument in favour of these ultrasounds. The belief that telling a woman the gestational age of the foetus lets her make a better informed choice is truly frustrating for two reasons.
Firstly, how does knowing the age of the foetus better inform a woman on the impact that a child would have upon her life? It doesn’t. It’s like saying, “the lot you could build your house on is 500 years old. Now you know how to build a home!” The possibility is not the same as the reality. Likewise, knowing there is the possibility of letting the foetus grow into a child is not the same as actually birthing, or raising a child.
Secondly, the majority of women getting abortions already know what having a child would mean: According to the Guttmacher Intitute, “61% of abortions are obtained by women who already have one or more children.” These are women who understand the duties and responsibilities of parenthood. They have the right to choose without being forced to endure invasive procedures.
And if you think Bill 462 is a freak occurrence, be aware: Similar ultrasound bills are awaiting review in 11 other states.