The Virginia Vagina Debacle
The Virginia bill pushed by Republicans, including Governor Bob McDonnell, that would force women going for an abortion to have an ultrasound first, appears as if it will be modified. To be certain the features of the fetus were well-defined, the original bill mandated that an ultrasound was to be done vaginally. In other words, women would have a large wand inserted into their vaginas to depict the fetus, even if the abortion was being done after rape or incest.
Was this to be done for medical reasons or perhaps to punish women who were thinking about an abortion? According to federal law, sexual penetration by an object is considered rape and is actually a felony under Virginia statutes. McDonnell was a supporter of the initial legislation until a groundswell of protests in Virginia and around the country, along with ridicule by Stephen Colbert (http://bit.ly/w1gyqJ) and Saturday Night Live (http://bit.ly/zJJhEN) convinced him and the House of Delegates to pass a slightly less demeaning version. In the modified bill, women could have the ultrasound procedure done trans-abdominally instead of vaginally. When abortions are being performed, vaginal ultrasounds are often administered beforehand, but having the government force women to have this procedure galvanized the protests.
The bill is still in play with the Virginia Senate’s version identical to the original measure. However, it is believed that the Senate will not embarrass the governor by refusing to modify its version of the bill. McDonnell is considered a possible Republican candidate for Vice-President and has been concerned about the national spotlight on this issue.
Needless to say, pro-life supporters of the bill were unhappy with McDonnell’s change of heart and he was assailed by the Family Foundation after his reversal. But if the bill is passed by both houses of the Virginia legislature, the requirement for an ultrasound prior to an abortion will remain in place, Virginia joining nine other states mandating this procedure. Even forcing a trans-abdominal ultrasound is an invasion of a woman’s privacy, since it should be a medical decision than driven by politics.
Another aspect of the original bill that has not received as much attention was that it obligated physicians to ask the woman prior to an abortion is she wanted to see the image of the fetus and hear its heartbeat. If the woman chose not to view the image, it would remain in her medical file for seven years.
The supporters of the Virginia bill are those who say they want to keep government out of citizens’ lives. Is there anything that could be more intrusive? Is there just a bit of hypocrisy here? Unfortunately, a self-righteous portion of American citizens believes it is okay to encroach on a woman’s privacy, interposing their laws between a woman and her physician. Some of these same people would probably like to see contraception banned and I’d bet that some would like to see sex before marriage outlawed. It’s tough having an 18th century mentality and living in the 21st century.
A VietNam vet and a Columbia history major who became a medical doctor, Bob Levine has watched the evolution of American politics over the past 40 years with increasing alarm. He knows he’s not alone. Partisan grid-lock, massive cash contributions and even more massive expenditures on lobbyists have undermined real democracy, and there is more than just a whiff of corruption emanating from Washington. If the nation is to overcome lockstep partisanship, restore growth to the economy and bring its debt under control, Levine argues that it will require a strong centrist third party to bring about the necessary reforms. Levine’s previous book, Shock Therapy For the American Health Care System took a realist approach to health care from a physician’s informed point of view; Resurrecting Democracy takes a similar pragmatic approach, putting aside ideology and taking a hard look at facts on the ground. In his latest book, Levine shines a light that cuts through the miasma of party propaganda and reactionary thinking, and reveals a new path for American politics. This post is cross posted from his blog.