Oklahoma’s Ultrasound Fantasy World


Ultrasound requirements represent
the creative, fact-free thinking that dominates the anti-choice movement. 
One state after another passes these trendy laws, which require abortion
providers to perform an ultrasound on women seeking abortion before
the abortion.  These laws beautifully encapsulate pretty much every
nasty, sexist opinion of women held by those who drive the anti-choice
movement: that women are stupid, that women are nothing but sentimental
walking wombs who have no desire but to gestate and give birth at all
points in time, and that women are largely asexual creatures whose choice
to have sex without reproducing could only be the result of male coercion. 
The fantasy driving these laws is the idea that women will take one
look at the ultrasound image, realize that she has a fetus in there,
and will run out crying with joy at impending motherhood.  These
laws are based on a theory of female intelligence that puts women on
par with rather bright dogs and dull toddlers, but not much smarter
than that. 

I spoke with an Austin-based
clinic worker about the contrast between these laws and reality, and
she said, "These laws are totally unnecessary.  Ultrasounds are
always done anyway, for dating purposes, though not always by a doctor. 
Requiring that doctors do them takes time and money, and can raise the
costs of abortion."   

She also revealed that the
patients she sees aren’t nearly as ignorant as anti-choice lawmakers
assume.  "About half of women already choose to view the images. 
They look at the image and go forward with it anyway." 

Anti-choicers like to claim
that their fantasy is indeed the truth, and that ultrasound laws reduce
the abortion rate.  For instance, the abortion rate in Ohio has
gone down, and anti-choicers in the state immediately
took credit.
 

    "Reaching a record
    low in reported abortions marks a milestone for pro-life efforts in
    Ohio," said Mike Gonidakis, executive director of Ohio Right to
    Life… 

    He also mentioned a new
    state law requiring doctors to give women the opportunity to view an
    ultrasound of their fetus before undergoing an abortion and older laws
    requiring a 24-hour wait and parental notification. 

It’s an evidence-free assertion. 
It’s hard to determine exactly why abortion rates go up or down, but
as the Columbus Dispatch article notes, the unintended pregnancy rate
is going up for lower income women (who often can’t scrape together
$500 for an abortion in time) while higher income women are seeing their
unintended pregnancy rate go down.  The gap speaks of access to
contraception–women who can afford abortion can also afford to prevent
pregnancy–access that national right to life organizations oppose. 
So, contrary to what Gonidakis says, the abortion rate is probably going
down despite the anti-choice movement.  Their only contribution
is making it harder for poorer women to access abortion, though it’s
no big surprise that they’re only effective in making people’s lives
harder and more miserable. 

Ultrasound laws are popular
across the country, but leave it to the state of Oklahoma to pass a
new law that defines the cutting edge of reactionary fantasizing. The law requires
doctors to draw out the unpleasant process of getting an abortion
by forcing the women to sit through
an ultrasound and a lecture describing the shape, size, and features
of an embryo or fetus in detail.  It’s a classic example of how
the anti-choice stereotype of women as dumb bunnies who can easily be
tricked into childbirth through sentimentality barely conceals a much
more hostile, punishing view of women.   The justification
for this law is the sentimental dumb bunny stereotype, but the practical
effect is to make the abortion process as punishing as possible for
the woman who has violated the sexual standards of the right wing Christians
who passed this law.  Might as well call it the Bill For The Punishment
Of Fornicators.   

Unfortunate Oklahoma residents
who find themselves need to terminate unintended pregnancies have a
reprieve if this happens to them between now and March, though, as a district court
judge has slapped a restraining order on the state until March.
  A clinic is suing, citing the
impossibility of implementing the law as written.   

This particular version of
the mandatory ultrasound laws has generated even more outrage than these
laws usually do, as quick
Google search will attest.
 
I suspect because while all the mandatory ultrasound laws are patronizing,
this one is patronizing to the tenth degree.  When you get right
down to it, laws like these are passed mainly by groups of men who have
extremely low opinions of women, who literally think that the only reason
women get abortions is that they don’t know what being pregnant really
means.  The irritation I personally feel when anti-choicers engage
in tactics that imply that women are stupid and ignorant reminds me
strongly of my reaction to someone shoving a Bible at me and asking
me if I’ve heard the Good News. Do they expect me to say, "Gosh
who is this Jesus Christ you speak of?  I haven’t heard of him
until just now."  There’s this underlying belief that you don’t
see things their way because you’re impossibly ignorant.    

Which means that the good news
about the outrage over the Oklahoma ultrasound law presents an opportunity
to highlight the differences between the pro- and anti-choice sides
of the debate. What little appeal the laws have resides in the surface
appearance of using scientific information to better inform decision-making. William Saletan
was deceived by that illusion,

as well as the illusion that only the law would make ultrasounds happen,
when medical necessity and women’s choices have already brought the
ultrasound into abortion provision.  In reality, as the Oklahoma
law illustrates, ultrasound laws are based not in science, but in a
fantasy world where women are stupid, doctors are deceptive, and misogynist
lawmakers are the saviors of women.

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  • harry834

    You have to ask: why would a positive pregnancy test trigger all the emotions it does in the woman if she didn’t think a developing would-be human was in there? I mean does any women ever say after testing positive, "Will it be a cow, chicken or whale?". Or at least wouldn’t she have the similar emotions if she had a negative or positive test result?

     

  • harry834

    Is the possibility that a woman may not want a developing human being inside of her. The many reasons why a person (male or female) would want to postpone or opt-out of having children are WELL known, but somehow the anti-choicers want to pretend they don’t exist…even while trying to prevent teen pregnancy.

    Gee, you’d think that sometimes being pregnant were not preferable… 

  • http://thewelltimedperiod.blogspot.com invalid-0

    And let’s not forget what else these ultrasound requirements represent:

    1) Forcing female patients to undergo an invasive test without their consent, and

    2) Forcing physicians to perform an invasive test without a medical indication.

  • invalid-0

    As long as the author is citing an anecdote about abortion-minded women at an Austin clinic, then it’s only fair that I retort with Dr. Eric Keroack’s finding that out of 436 women considering abortion, ¾ of them changed their mind upon viewing their offspring’s by ultrasound. Before dismissing Keroack ad hominem, keep in mind that he has provided more evidence than a happenstance anecdote from an abortion clinic worker ever could.

    Should it come as any surprise to us that Warren Hern’s textbook, “Abortion Practice,” advises doctors to turn the ultrasound screen away from women so as not to upset the poor little darlings? Hern must have felt threatened by something—say, a woman who saw the relevant evidence and (gasp!) made a different choice.

    And let’s not forget Justice Blackmun’s infamous statement in Thornburgh v. American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists: “The mandated descriptions of fetal characteristics at two-week intervals, no matter how objective, is plainly overinclusive. [It is] not medical information that is always relevant to a woman’s decision, and it may serve to confuse and punish her and to heighten her anxiety.”

    Translation: Don’t worry your pretty little heads with the facts, girls. Just plug your ears and look away.
    That abortion rights proponents espouse this paternalistic practice and rhetoric should outrage any genuine feminist. We women can look at ultrasonic evidence objectively and make our own decisions, thank you. There’s no need to protect us from that.

    Finally, the gravamen of this article shoots itself in the foot. If allowing a woman to view her offspring on the ultrasound screen is inconsequential to her decision, then passing a law to ensure this right is inconsequential to the abortion rights cause.

  • therealistmom

    Such a fair-minded and unbiased source, to be sure. Again I hate to use
    Wiki as a source, but I am short on time and this gives a nice quick
    and dirty (in more ways than one) rundown of his nice, fair-minded
    career.

    ———————-

    <i>Dr. Eric J. Keroack is an American obstetrician-gynecologist.

    In late 2006, he was named as the deputy assistant secretary for population affairs at the Department of Health and Human Services, the office that oversees federally funded teenage pregnancy, family planning, and abstinence programs, using its $283 million annual budget.

    The nomination of Keroack, an anti-contraceptive advocate, to a
    position responsible for ensuring low-income women get access to birth
    control has been criticized.

    The Massachusetts native has faced criticism before, after making
    the claim that sex with multiple partners hurts women’s ability to bond
    by altering their brain chemistry. He claims that premarital sex suppresses the hormone oxytocin, thereby impairing one’s ability to forge a successful long-term relationship.

    Before assuming his new position on Monday, November 20, 2006, Keroack was the medical director of A Woman’s Concern, a Christian nonprofit organization based in Dorchester, Massachusetts.
    It runs six centers in the state that offer free pregnancy testing,
    ultrasounds and counseling and works to "help women escape the
    temptation and violence of abortion." Its crisis pregnancy centers oppose contraception and do not distribute information concerning birth control.

    In January 2007, Keroack received "two formal warnings from the
    Massachusetts board of medicine ordering him to refrain from
    prescribing drugs to people who are not his patients and from providing
    mental health counseling without proper training."

    On March 29, 2007 Keroack resigned his position at HHS.</i>

     

     

  • mellankelly1

    That guy is a serious quack! 

  • invalid-0

    Exactly how does any of this undermine or disprove the Keroack’s findings?

  • mellankelly1

    It speaks to Keroack’s partiality that prevents objective consideration of an issue or situation (this issue being: abortion.)  You know, bias.  Dr. Keroack has continually dismissed evidence which contradicts his belief system (regarding condoms, premarital sex, birth control and abortion.) Are you suggesting that we take the findings of his "study" seriously when this man refuses to accept scientifically accurate information regarding any other aspect of human sexuality?  You do not believe that his bias has any impact on his findings?  How about peer reviewed studies regarding his findings… got any of those? 

  • invalid-0

    So Keroack invented this data because he was allegedly biased in other areas? That’s quite a conspiracy theory. Let’s abandon speculation and stick to what we know for sure–namely, that agencies continually conduct internal audits to make sure that they are meeting their goals and objectives. Keroack’s pregnancy center is seeking to lower the number of women who choose abortion, so he would have nothing to gain in fudging the results of ultrasound exposure and its impact on women’s decisions.

    As my original post goes through the inevitable rounds of getting picked apart, the most salient points are getting overlooked:

    1. If ultrasound doesn’t dissuade a significant amount of women from getting an abortion, then so what? Oklahoma’s proposed law is inconsequential. So why feel threatened by it?

    2. Marcotte, along with others who agree with her, doesn’t consider women capable of looking at evidence objectively and subsequently making their own decisions. There’s a name for that mentality: Sexism. And it’s a shame to see if coming from a movement that has tried for decades to put a feminist spin on its agenda.

  • mellankelly1

    So Keroack invented this data because he was allegedly biased in other areas?

    Ah… no.  Keroack is biased in the area of the study, namely abortion.  In addition, the data is suspect because I have been unable (thus far) to find supporting data or peer reviewed studies which come to the same conclusion.  Although, to be honest, the conspiracy theory sounds way more interesting.

    Keroack’s pregnancy center is seeking to lower the number of women who choose abortion, so he would have nothing to gain in fudging the results of ultrasound exposure and its impact on women’s decisions

    I’m going to go ahead and pretend that you actually believe that.  However, it stands to reason that Keroack would benefit from any study (scientifically accurate or not) which he believes will be instrumental in furthering his agenda (outlawing abortion and birth control at any cost.)

    If ultrasound doesn’t dissuade a significant amount of women from getting an abortion, then so what? Oklahoma’s proposed law is inconsequential. So why feel threatened by it?

    Chipping away at abortion rights and making it more difficult for a woman to obtain an abortion is harmful.  It threatens women’s very well-being and as a result, it’s immoral.  As far as my feeling threatened… not so much.  Outraged… absolutely.

    Marcotte, along with others who agree with her, doesn’t consider women capable of looking at evidence objectively and subsequently making their own decisions.

    Amanda, along with anyone else who believe women are not uninformed and/or ignorant regarding human reproduction and/or embryology, consider it a huge insult to pretend that a woman is unaware that if she terminates their pregnancy, she will not have a baby.  Nearly 60% of women who opt to terminate their pregnancies are already mothers… you really think they haven’t taken a look at an ultrasound before?  You really believe that they have no idea what will happen after gestating a healthy pregnancy and giving birth?   Why do you think so little of women?  Or is it just the women who opt to terminate their pregnancies?

  • invalid-0

    “I’m going to go ahead and pretend that you actually believe that. However, it stands to reason that Keroack would benefit from any study (scientifically accurate or not) which he believes will be instrumental in furthering his agenda (outlawing abortion and birth control at any cost.)”

    In posing this unsubstantiated accusation (i.e. conspiracy theory, speculation) that Keroack is inventing data to “[outlaw] abortion and birth control at any cost,” you’re forgetting one thing. Informed consent by ultrasound exposure has no bearing whatsoever on Roe v. Wade or Doe v. Bolton. On the contrary, it’s all about free choice, something you may claim to know a thing or two about ;-)

    “Chipping away at abortion rights and making it more difficult for a woman to obtain an abortion is harmful. It threatens women’s very well-being and as a result, it’s immoral. As far as my feeling threatened… not so much. Outraged… absolutely.”

    Though this is an easy platitude for abortion rights advocates to fall back on, it doesn’t work. It bears repeating: Oklahoma’s law doesn’t do a thing to make abortion illegal. And it doesn’t, to use your words, make it “more difficult for women to obtain an abortion.” The protocol is to do an ultrasound prior to the abortion. Oklahoma’s lawmakers were rightfully concerned about Warren Hern’s recommendation to turn the screen away from women, (we wouldn’t want to distress the little damsels, would we?), and decided to combat this demeaning paternalism.

    “Amanda, along with anyone else who believe women are not uninformed and/or ignorant regarding human reproduction and/or embryology, consider it a huge insult to pretend that a woman is unaware that if she terminates their pregnancy, she will not have a baby.”

    Even if you find informed consent “insulting” or insist that you already know what it contains, it is not a valid reason to oppose women’s access to it. A woman in Oklahoma now has a right to scoff at the screen and carry through with the abortion. She also has a right to evaluate the evidence and change her mind. And your personal feelings about abortion should not impeded the process.

  • http://movies-films-data.blogspot.com/search/label/Fantasy invalid-0

    nice post! thanks for sharing.