State-Sanctioned Rape Via Trans-Vaginal Ultrasound: A Rape Victim’s Perspective


It has been interesting and heartening to see the massive response by the women of Virginia – and the whole country – to come together with justified outrage against the state-sanctioned rape bill requiring women seeking abortion to undergo medically unnecessary and costly trans-vaginal ultrasounds. It has also been quite interesting to see the curious push back from the right on the use of the word “rape” when describing the bill which could require the penetration of a woman’s vagina without her consent (rape). 

I found this article posted at The Week especially telling about the nature of the right-wing push back:

Critics say the bill is worrisome in part because the only way to do an ultrasound early in pregnancy is by inserting a probe into a woman’s vagina. “Let’s start calling this what it really is: State-sanctioned rape,” says Andy Kopsa at RH Reality Check. Is this hyperbole by abortion-rights advocates?

The Week article goes on to reference Slate’s recent article on the subject which is supportive of the state sanctioned rape framing.  But then I read this passage and became frankly a bit sick to my stomach:

Don’t insult rape victims: The Left is waging a “preposterous attack” on this bill, and doing “an enormous injustice to true rape victims,” says Tina Korbe at Hot Air. Transvaginal sonograms will be more rare than critics allege, and even then, how are they like rape? It’s not as if “an ultrasound is in any way sexual.” And unlike rape, ultrasounds have “no real risk of negative consequences — like emotional trauma or STDs.” This bill would just give women the information they need before making the serious and sometimes traumatic choice to have an abortion. (emphasis mine)

Rape as a sexual act?  Really?  Let’s be really clear here: rape is an act of violence. Rape is non-consensual penetration of a vagina or anus. 

Cristen Hemmins, an outspoken survivor of a horrific rape who played a critical role in the defeat of the Mississippi “personhood” amendment last year is outraged.  This morning she told me,

“Penetration against your will is penetration against your will. If after bring brutally raped by two men who also shot me twice as I escaped, I had been forced to have an unnecessary trans-vaginal sonogram in order to get an abortion, it would have infuriated be beyond words. The one and only reason such a thing is being called for is to humiliate and punish women who need a medical treatment–abortion. The government has NO PLACE mandating such. As a rape victim, I find this bill insulting and maddening. The men who are mandating this, and any woman who defends it, has no respect or sympathy for rape victims, nor faith in a woman’s ability to make her own decisions.”

Addressing the idea of rape being in any way “sexual” Hemmins struggled to find a way to respond to such a ludicrous claim:

“It so dumb I don’t know how to respond to it, really. I would assume that if you ask any rape victim, they will tell you that after being raped, it takes a while to be able to enjoy sex again. Doesn’t that make it clear? Being raped is different from being beaten or simply physically assaulted. It’s a deeper level domination and humiliation.”

Although the “ultrasound as asexual act makes it not rape argument” takes the cake, there are other weird defenses of the Virginia law out there.  One of my favorites is the “it doesn’t hurt that much so stop whining argument” or there is the “if trans-vaginal ultrasound is rape then so is abortion because they stick something up there argument” which is equally brilliant. 

Here’s the deal, it isn’t about pain, it isn’t about the sexiness of a vaginal probe or the GOP’s desire to ensure women have “all the information” about her pregnancy.  It is about violation, humiliation and punishment as a way to further dismantle Roe and restrict access to a legal medical procedure: abortion. 

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  • johann7

    This makes it really clear that they’re not thinking of women as capable of making decisions or possessed of agency. The defining characteristic of rape is fucking obvious: a lack of consent. But consent isn’t even considered in any of the ridiculous apologetics statements, which makes it clear that the question of consent doesn’t even enter into these people’s minds. That only makes sense if they either think that women’s consent with respect to anything having to do with their bodies is unimportant (likely, considering the broader support for forced pregnancy), or they think women are incapable of giving consent in the first place, that women have no agency (also quite possible: the Right seems to have a lot of trouble thinking about women as actual people, at least once they’ve been born).

  • kimberly-dawes

    Johann,

    I’m not sure what planet you live on, but here on earth, just about EVERY medical doctor that I can think of runs tests on people before they operate.  In fact, this is quite a recent advancement in medicine in the last 100 years or so, before people went to the local blacksmith to have a tooth removed. 

    I’m not sure how much you know about a woman’s body and pregnancy?  Women on earth can have what you call an eptopic pregnancy?  I suggest you Google it.  It is a very important thing for an abortionist to know BEFORE he performs an abortion.  This is a serious, life threatening condition.  If a woman went to her OB for a standard pre-natal test for a pregnancy that she wanted and he didn’t perform an ultra-sound…and she died from her eptopic pregnancy…guess what?  The doctor would be sued.

     

    You know, I find it quite interesting that an ultra-sound is a modern day invention that can save lives of mothers and babies…however, in the case of abortion, we prefer to keep women in the dark ages following the same ideals that were around in 1973.  We don’t want to education them on the post traumatic stress and increase chance of suicide, increased risk in breast cancer, potential to not be able to conceive again post-abortion, etc.  Almost 40 years go by and we would argue AGAINST using modern technology to assure the health of the mother?  We argue AGAINST more information?  What other legitimate field of medical science would continue operating this way?  Imagine, treating cancer patients today with the same level of knowledge from 1973?  Laughable.

     

    I suggest you actually read this law for yourself because NO WHERE in it does it state that a woman has to succumb to this type of ultra-sound. 

     

    Finally, where have you been all along as Planned Parenthood has been routinely performing these ultra-sounds on women? 

     

    Welcome back to earth my friend.

     

     

  • justmywords

    Kimberly, I’m not sure what planet *you* live on, but no one has suggested that there’s never a need for an ultrasound. The only thing that’s being said is that it’s not the business of the government to mandate an ultrasound before someone can have a medical procedure. 

    Perhaps you don’t know as much about pregnancy as you think. While ultrasounds are a useful tool in confirming ectopic (not eptopic) pregnancies, they aren’t routinely given as a ‘just in case’ thing. Unless there are other symptoms pointing towards an ectopic pregnancy, women generally have their first ultrasound at 20 weeks. And even then, she’s only going to be given that ultrasound if she consents. 

    I suggest that you actually read the law for yourself, because the proposed law most certainly *did* mandate an ultrasound to confirm fetal age, and at that stage of a pregnancy, that could only be done by way of a transvaginal ultrasound. 

    There is no medical evidence that PTSD is higher among women that have had abortions than among women that were forced to carry an unwanted pregnancy to term, no medical evidence that there’s an increased chance of suicide. The supposed increased risk of breast cancer was disproven years ago, and the risk of not being able to conceive post abortion is no higher than is the risk of not being able to conceive again post pregnancy. In fact, in medical terms, an abortion is actually safer than carrying a child to term. 

    Oh, and where have we been all along as PP has routinely been performing these ultrasounds? Minding our own business and allowing women to decide for themselves whether or not to have one.

     

  • crowepps

    The magic words are Medically Necessary.  Any ultrasound done for medical reasons is “medically necessary” and the standard of care in medicine is that women must give consent or they won’t be done.

    Since all the ultrasounds that are medically necessary are already being done, politicians can only require medically UNnecessary procedures, and ones for which, I would point out, the women are going to be required to pay.

    It is not necessary to educate women seeking abortions on post traumatic stress, increased chance of suicide, increased risk of breast cancer, or possible infertility because research has shown that none of these purported consequences is actually likely, that there is no association between those problems and having had an abortions, and that instead they are simply myths promoted by religious fanatics and misogynists who are outraged that some women don’t see themselves as society’s breeding stock.

    And by the way, those dangerous ectopic pregnancies?  If a Personhood bill passes and becomes law, those women will have to wait until their tube actually ruptures and the fetus has died before they can receive treatment.  At the present time ectopic pregnancies kill less than 50 women annually in the United States, but once Personhood becomes law, with 60,000 cases diagnosed annually, no ability to end them medically with RU-486, and the doctors forced to stand over the dying patient listening through a stethoscope for the heartbeat of the doomed fetus to stop, we can be pretty confident that death rate will skyrocket.