In Which the Oklahoma State Legislature Demonstrates the Jaw-Dropping Hypocrisy of Republicans and Legalizes Rape
In a determined effort to punish women planning to terminate pregnancies, legislators in Oklahoma overrode the Governor’s veto to pass an unconscionable law: women seeking an abortion are required to first have an ultrasound, with the screen visible to them. And in case they should close their eyes, the medical personnel must describe to the woman what they see on the screen. Oh, and the woman has to pay for it, too (about $400).
The law applies at any stage of pregnancy, even early in the first trimester. For those of you without an obstetric history of your own, let me tell you what that means. Perhaps you’ve seen, on TV, an ultrasound in which a happily pregnant woman with a big belly lies on a table while a smiling doctor rubs a rounded instrument over her abdomen. That’s a second or third trimester ultrasound. In the first trimester, the embryo is so small that it cannot be detected through the abdomen. The ultrasound probe must be pressed against the cervix.
This procedure is called a “trans-vaginal ultrasound.” The probe is a long, thin wand which is lubricated and inserted in the vagina. In most circumstances it is not painful. But it is invasive as all get-out.
There is no purpose or justification for this law, other than deliberately traumatizing a woman in an already difficult situation and creating a financial barrier to obtaining medical services. An ultrasound may or may not be performed prior to an abortion. That’s the doctor’s call, not the Congressman’s. There is no medical benefit to forcing a woman to view the ultrasound or to hear a description of it. There is no excuse whatsoever for demanding that, in order to obtain a legal medical service, a woman be penetrated by an instrument and pay for her own rape. (In case you were wondering, there is no exception in the law for women who are pregnant as a result of rape. So they get to be raped twice.)
To sum up: Republican lawmakers, who style themselves as the defenders of freedom and personal liberty, passed a law which forces women to undergo unnecessary medical procedures involving bodily penetration. The law also forces doctors to engage in practices that violate their oaths. Republican lawmakers, who style themselves “fiscally responsible,” passed a law which incurs increased medical costs and places additional financial burdens on patients. And since the law so egregiously violates the rights of women, it will certainly be challenged in court, resulting in legal bills in the hundreds of thousands of dollars, to be paid by the citizens of Oklahoma.
Is your jaw dropping yet? Wait, I’m not finished.
The Oklahoma legislature overrode another veto this week, and passed a law that prohibits women from suing doctors who failed to tell them that there were problems with their pregnancies.
Why would a doctor lie to you about the health of your fetus? Because the doctor doesn’t want you to have an abortion because you would rather not, say, carry a pregnancy to term only to have a baby with a fatal abnormality die within hours or minutes of its birth.
That’s right. In the great state of Oklahoma, a doctor can lie to your face and tell you your fetus is perfectly healthy (when it isn’t) with no fear of legal repercussions.
Defenders of the first law I told you about will claim that it is simply in the interests of fully informed consent. Women should know what the embryo looks like, and if they won’t look we’ll tell them!
How then, will the second law be explained? Women should be fully informed, except when the Republican lawmakers of Oklahoma would rather they were not.
Note also that the law will have a highly undesirable effect on all pregnant women, not just those who give birth to babies with disabilities they weren’t expecting. How can a woman in Oklahoma trust that what her doctor tells her is true? She can’t. She will spend her entire pregnancy wondering if she detected a suspicious shift of the eye when the doctor said “everything looks fine.”
But that’s ok, it’s none of her business, anyway. Making decisions about your body, your health care, and your family is for Republican politicians, not silly little women.