A Pleasing Outcome
Now they've gone and done it.
The Virginia Senate, and now its House of Delegates, has passed a bill which "would require a woman seeking an abortion to undergo an ultrasound at least 24 hours prior to the procedure." The doctor would be required to show the woman the resulting image; if she refuses to watch, it is to go on her permanent record.
Early in the pregnancy, an abdominal sonogram would be insufficient to provide the information mandated by the legislation, hence requiring, as Democratic Delegate David Englin put it, "many women in Virginia to undergo vaginal penetration with an ultrasound probe against their consent in order to exercise their constitutional right to an abortion, even for nonsurgical, noninvasive, pharmaceutical abortions."
The resultant charge among many on the left that the procedure constitutes legalized rape would strike many as hyperbolic. But it's only barely so: in an interview with RH Reality Check, Englin cited
§ 18.2-67.2. Object sexual penetration; penalty.
A. An accused shall be guilty of inanimate or animate object sexual penetration if he or she penetrates the labia majora or anus of a complaining witness, whether or not his or her spouse, other than for a bona fide medical purpose, or causes such complaining witness to so penetrate his or her own body with an object or causes a complaining witness, whether or not his or her spouse, to engage in such acts with any other person or to penetrate, or to be penetrated by, an animal, and
1. The complaining witness is less than 13 years of age, or
2. The act is accomplished against the will of the complaining witness, by force, threat or intimidation of or against the complaining witness or another person, or through the use of the complaining witness's mental incapacity or physical helplessness.
It doesn't meet the dictionary definition of rape, but it is coercive, violent, and subjects the offender to a penalty of five years to life.The bill's sponsor (a woman), responding to the obvious charge that a forced sonogram is invasive, responded “If we want to talk about invasiveness, there’s nothing more invasive than the procedure that she is about to have.”
Seriously, she did. An abortion may be medically necessary, is voluntary, and is safer (on average) to the patient than is childbirth. But the main purpose of the legislation isn't to end, or even to deter, abortions. Libertarian Megan McArdle remarks
I think that abortion should be legal, but I also think that it should be a last resort, and I’m all for the government using any non-coercive methods it can to encourage women to carry their pregnancy to term, including things that will make them feel bad about aborting. I think, for example, that sonograms should be mandatory before termination, I’m in favor of waiting periods and parental notification laws, and I’m agnostic on spousal notification.
Keep it legal, but make them feel bad about the life she thinks they're ending. Similarly, a Red State blogger pleads "abortion proponents are being disingenuous when they argue that this is a restriction on a 'woman’s right to choose.' In no way will a mother be forced to pay for this test, nor will any result make her abortion more difficult to procure."
Oh, yes. The legislation is not intended to decrease abortions but to harass women. And "abortion proponents" are the ones who are disingenuous. Assessing an abortion restriction intended not to reduce the incidence of "murder" but instead to shame women, Digby comments
I'd also point out a little known fact about Virginia's state rape law: they are to be used even for women who are having chemically induced abortions. They must be probed as well --- in order that the government "make them feel bad" for what they are legally entitled to do. (And, by the way, if they refuse to look at the ultrasound, that's supposed to be noted in their medical record --- I'm assuming for some sort of future reference, the purpose of which is obscure.)
So patients will be required to obtain and view an ultrasound, presumably to convince them that the fetus is a living, breathing human being who should not be killed. No doubt it will deter some women, the ones whom the anti-choice contingent believe are worthwhile- those who, presented with undeniable evidence, will conclude that saving a life is paramount to all other considerations. The women who (in the right's view) refuse to be swayed by evidence and are selfish will press on with the abortion.
Presto; mission accomplished. Women are successfully intimidated- but only those whom, ironically, the pro-life people would approve of. Odd thing is, they probably find that very satisfying.