Two is Not Always Better than One

Remember all the hoopla last year in Virginia about a proposed bill requiring women to have a transvaginal ultrasound prior to having an abortion? And remember how there was so much public outrage and backlash that Governor McDonnell withdrew his support an the bill was voted down? Well apparently the Indiana state senate looked at all of that and said “Like that, but with more forced penetration.”

Last week, the Senate Health and Provider Services Committee approved SB 371, meaning it will now advance to the full Senate for approval. The bill is an unnerving cocktail of horrible; a combination of some now-classic TRAP laws, plus a startling new requirement that women who seek medically-induced abortions (via the “abortion pill” or RU-486) must now have two separate ultrasounds: one before taking the medication, and one after.

Now that’s it’s all out on the table, let’s break it down. First, the TRAP laws. As I’ve written before, TRAP laws are ridiculous requirements that abortion clinics are expected to meet if they want to continue providing abortions. The Indiana bill includes such oldies-but-goodies as requiring the clinic to widen hallways and doorways, as well as requiring them to install anesthesia and surgical equipment. One clinic directly affected by this is the Planned Parenthood clinic in Lafayette, which doesn’t even provide surgical abortions; they would have to spend thousands upon thousands of dollars altering their clinic to comply with surgical standards, when no surgery even takes place there. The clinic would likely have to close, and, fun fact, it’s the only clinic of its kind in the entire county.

So let’s imagine that a women’s health clinic somehow has the money to comply with the new building requirements. A woman who comes in seeking a medical abortion will be subjected to not just one, but two ultrasounds. This means two doctor’s appointments, which may or may not be covered by insurance (who are we kidding, they probably won’t be), two days off work, two trips to a clinic and the accompanying issues of childcare, transportation, etc. It’s no secret that these kinds of laws put an undue burden on lower-income women living in rural areas, where a participating clinic isn’t exactly right down the street. A woman can just as easily get a blood test at any local doctor’s office to determine if she is still pregnant after taking the pill, rendering a trip back to the clinic pointless. This is not even touching on the fact that oftentimes these procedures are physically uncomfortable and emotionally traumatizing for many women. Scenario time: a woman who was raped and got pregnant must now subject herself to having something put inside her twice, whether or not she actually consents, just so she can legally obtain an abortion. That sounds like it could only end well.

An important caveat: the woman is not required by law to attend the follow-up appointment, but the doctor must make a “reasonable effort” to make sure that she does. So yes, potentially a woman could refuse to return, but how many women will be unaware of their rights, and how many physicians will pressure them into coming back (since that is required by law)? What a fun little social experiment.

In closing, the director of Indiana Right to Life, Sue Swayze, totally doesn’t get what the big deal is, guys. According to her, once you get pregnant you virtually give up any right to object to having anything else put inside of you ever again:

“I got pregnant vaginally.  Something else could come in my vagina for a medical test that wouldn’t be that intrusive to me.  So I find that argument a little ridiculous.”

Good to know you are so open, Sue, but others of us might want to have a little say over what is and is not put inside of our bodies.

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