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February 17, 2012 10:16 AM Virginia Ritual Humiliation Bill

By Ed Kilgore

In other news involving the war on reproductive rights:

Over the weekend Virginia became the eighth state to pass legislation requiring women to submit to an ultrasound examination and be offered a chance to view the images before having an abortion. But the Old Dominion followed just one state, Texas, in specifying the required images in a way that requires, in most cases, highly intrusive procedures.

As Dahlia Lithwick notes:

Because the great majority of abortions occur during the first 12 weeks, that means most women will be forced to have a transvaginal procedure, in which a probe is inserted into the vagina, and then moved around until an ultrasound image is produced. Since a proposed amendment to the bill—a provision that would have had the patient consent to this bodily intrusion or allowed the physician to opt not to do the vaginal ultrasound—failed on 64-34 vote, the law provides that women seeking an abortion in Virginia will be forcibly penetrated for no medical reason. I am not the first person to note that under any other set of facts, that would constitute rape under state law.

Lithwick also observes that sponsors of the legislation offered no evidence that the ultrasound images obtained by these state-required violations of women will prevent a single abortion. That’s probably because there isn’t any. As Stephanie Pappas of LiveScience noted when Texas was considering its similar legislation:

“I’ve never seen anybody who said they were coming in to an abortion, wanted to see the ultrasound, reacted to it and then changed their mind on the basis of that,” said Ellen Wiebe, an abortion provider and director of the Willow Women’s Clinic in British Columbia, Canada.
Wiebe has done some of the few studies worldwide that attempt to look at women’s reactions to viewing an ultrasound pre-abortion. The research can’t speak directly to laws like the proposed Texas bill, Wiebe told LiveScience, because in that study “nobody was ever forced to do something they didn’t want to do.” But it is the closest thing to research anyone has ever done on state sonogram policies.
The study, published in 2009 in the European Journal of Contraception and Reproductive Health Care, found that, when given the option, 72 percent of women chose to view the sonogram image. Of those, 86 percent said it was a positive experience. None changed their mind about the abortion.

Absent evidence that they represent some sort of difference-maker, it seems incontrovertible that the purpose of such requirements is to intimidate and humiliate women, and add another cost and delay to the abortion procedure, which, of course, Virginia legislators would ban altogether if the Supreme Court would let them.

Ed Kilgore is a contributing writer to the Washington Monthly. He is managing editor for The Democratic Strategist and a senior fellow at the Progressive Policy Institute. Find him on Twitter: @ed_kilgore.

Comments

  • Danp on February 17, 2012 10:29 AM:

    I'm pretty sure the Virginia legislature included a conscience exception for doctors who find rape immoral, right?

  • jcricket on February 17, 2012 10:33 AM:

    To paraphrase a darling of the right wing set:

    Would it be responsible to speculate that Virginia's men-folk believe that penetrating women as punishment for being sexually active is appropriate, nay, is desired?

    It would be irresponsible not to.

  • jjm on February 17, 2012 10:36 AM:

    Those lawmakers in VA must get some kind of vicarious lascivious thrill out of this rapist procedure. I've NEVER heard of a vaginal ultrasound being necessary to document any pregnancy, so this is both classical rape in the sense of using the phallic device to teach naughty women a lesson and in the new definitions of rape the DOJ just brought out.

  • T2 on February 17, 2012 10:36 AM:

    one other key point in the Texas law.....the women have to PAY for the ultrasound. These type laws are nothing short of barbaric, and fit well with the Foster Freiss mentality that is pervasive (and pervertive) in todays Republican insanity.

  • stevio on February 17, 2012 10:38 AM:

    I think it's time for a Lysistrata moment...

    (with regrets to Aristophanes)

    Women need to tell males (almost always white ones) to cut the crap.

  • Josef K on February 17, 2012 10:38 AM:

    Wonder how these distinguished gentlemen would respond to being required to have a colonoscopy for their paychecks, plus at the start and end of every session, plus whenever they're in their offices?

    S'not like its rape or anything.

  • lib2core on February 17, 2012 10:41 AM:

    I am disgusted by these actions and I am strongly against abortion. However, my feelings do not dictate what others do. We have reached a craziness in this push for religiosity which confirms my feeling that if we are not careful, we will end up like the society in the book "The Handmaids Tale".

  • Julene on February 17, 2012 10:43 AM:

    recalling one conversation with a GOP lawmaker who told him that women had already made the decision to be "vaginally penetrated when they got pregnant." (I confirmed with Englin that this quote was accurate.)

    So this is the most disturbing quote I have seen on this. Really? So once a woman gets pregnant, she has no rights to her body anymore - probably applies to once she has sex, too - once you've opened up to someone, you're open to anyone? Anyone who puts this rhetoric out there is just as culpable in rape as someone who put cross-hairs on a picture of a politician as far as I am concerned. Also doesn't deserve to be making any decisions in our country for anyone else - probably not even themselves.

  • Hedda Peraz on February 17, 2012 10:44 AM:

    Honey, down here in the Lone Star State, we have a different name for the "procedure" where a probe is inserted into the Holiest of Holies, (thank you Samuel L. Jackson!) and moved around, until "an image appears". (Fireworks?)

    I believe I have several such probes, battery powered, in my bedside table. . .

  • The New York Crank on February 17, 2012 10:47 AM:

    I suspect that if the law is miraculously declared unconstitutional by the Roberts court, the backup legislation will substitute a broom or toilet plunger handle for the ultrasound probe.

    And if that fails, there's always the drowning stool. (If she doesn't die, she can have the abortion.)

    Yours very crankily,
    The New York Crank

  • stormskies on February 17, 2012 10:47 AM:

    This is pure sadism. Maybe the Governor and all those that voted for this should be required to wear S&M costumes to demonstrate who they actually are. Another possibility is having David "I am not a corporate cum slut" Gregory submit to a 'virginal probe' so that a report on it's intrusiveness can then be part of "Meet the Propagandist" this next Sunday.

  • Epicurus on February 17, 2012 10:51 AM:

    I am going to go out on a (short) limb and predict that there is no way this awful bill will be found constitutional. How desperate is the GOP to turn back the clock to the 19th century in this country? How stupid do they think the American electorate is? Given past examples, I may just be whistling past the graveyard, but I do hope that this will indeed turn out to be another "Schiavo moment."

  • max on February 17, 2012 10:52 AM:

    The good news is the radical right is on full auto destruct for 2012. I love it.

  • SecularAnimist on February 17, 2012 11:00 AM:

    Lithwick is right: the politicians who are voting for these laws are rapists. It's as simple as that.

  • Sgt. Gym Bunny on February 17, 2012 11:00 AM:

    Why does this remind me of those "virgin test" certain barbabarians in the penal system were carrying out on female protestors over in Egypt?

  • catgrrrrl on February 17, 2012 11:01 AM:

    How is it that the party purportedly for "liberty" and "freedom" that is always complaining about government overreach is legislating rape?

  • RepublicanPointOfView on February 17, 2012 11:15 AM:

    What do you liberals have against rape? The woman should lay back and enjoy it. And then, if she gets pregnant she should enjoy God's gift to her!

    If this rape by instrument is after a rape with a penis, then the woman is already experienced and it should be no big deal. If this rape by instrument is her first rape, she should consider it a learning experience and send a thank you note to the legislators.

    We old white males, who are the only ones knowledgeable enough to determine what is acceptable medical treatment for women's health issues, have deemed rape by instrument as acceptable so stop whining!

  • SadOldVet on February 17, 2012 11:21 AM:

    re Hedda...

    Probably not the best of comparisons!

    I suspect that you would find a rather sizeable difference when you select by whom and when the vibrator is being used as opposed to the use of one forced upon you without you having any say!

  • zandru on February 17, 2012 11:25 AM:

    'women had already made the decision to be "vaginally penetrated when they got pregnant.'

    It's funny how some old guys think being raped is a "decision" on the part of the victim, who is typically much smaller, weaker, and less experienced in hand to hand fighting than the men assaulting her. (Yes, unless the victim is a small child, it's natural for groups of men to go after one woman, rather than the stereotypical one on one.)

  • boatboy_srq on February 17, 2012 11:28 AM:

    @Julene and SecularAnimist: PRECISELY.

    @catgrrrrl: they ARE for "liberty" and "freedom" - for radical-fundie-Protestant, heterosexual, Caucasian males. The rest of us just aren't "people," and should never become "citizens." And it isn't overreach if it doesn't touch their bodies or their $$s.

  • paul on February 17, 2012 11:33 AM:

    Sickeningly enough, the requirement for doctors (or medical technicians) to commit sexual assault on women might be a winning argument in court. Remember that Roe v. Wade was decided in part on the basis of the doctor-patient relationship. Women don't count, but the feelings of male doctors must be respected.

  • Sgt. Gym Bunny on February 17, 2012 11:38 AM:

    re: SadOldVet, Hedda, RPOV

    Does anyone remember Alabama's vibrator ban a few year's ago???

    How dare "gals" enjoy penetration! They should not enjoy it! And they should enjoy not enjoying it!!!

  • Ron Byers on February 17, 2012 12:18 PM:

    My question is why aren't women in purple Virginia up in arms over this bill? I mean this bill should be inspiring marches on the state legislature. What does it take to really piss off Virginia women.

  • Gretchen on February 17, 2012 12:21 PM:

    It happens that I accompanied my daughter when she had this procedure earlier this week. She blanched when she saw the probe - it's rather big, and maybe 10 inches long - and relaxed when the technician assured her that it doesn't have to go in very far. But it's still about and inch or two in diameter, and they have to move it around to get the picture, which is painful. It's just outrageous to make someone do this for no reason at all.

  • paul on February 17, 2012 12:43 PM:

    "The study, published in 2009 in the European Journal of Contraception and Reproductive Health Care, found that, when given the option, 72 percent of women chose to view the sonogram image."

    So this suggests that some fraction of 28% of women might leave the clinic rather than be subjected to a sexual assault...

  • Gregory on February 17, 2012 12:48 PM:

    Dahlia Lithwick is a national treasure, and her outrage over this filthy legislation should be universal. To the shame of the Republican Party, its mask is now off.

  • Peter C on February 17, 2012 12:51 PM:

    If we had a functioning press, all candidates for ANY public office (but especially the Presidential candidates) should have to give their opinions about this law.

    In 2010, the Republicans siezed control of state legislatures all around the country and THIS is what they want. No one should pretend that they won't push this on a national level if they win the White House and the Senate.

    They.are.vile.

  • toowearyforoutrage on February 17, 2012 12:53 PM:

    Worth the drive next door to hardcore BLUE Maryland.

    (Proud to have worked on Roe V Wade ratification for Maryland in 1992. Passed by 62%.)

  • DAY on February 17, 2012 12:54 PM:

    Thanks, Gretchen, for the graphic description of the "probe" and its deployment!
    Now we need to see it on our TeeVee. Rachel Maddow, are you listening?

  • Kathryn on February 17, 2012 1:01 PM:

    Live in Northern Virginia, believe women or their insurance companies have to pay for this outrage as in Texas per comment from T2. Two other points, before vote in Virginia Senate, Sen. Janet Howell (D.Fairfax) introduced a bill to force men to undergo prostrate exams before they obtained prescriptions for Viagra, failed of course, but not by much. Personally had this procedure some years ago for a medical reason, it was embarrassing, unpleasant and uncomfortable. The technician couldn't have been kinder and I was not forced to do this. To force women to undergo this test is rape by the state.

    Voters just beginning to learn of this and not getting good reviews. Very important also to make sure voters understand that this is not a standard ultrasound but a transvaginal ultrasound, world of difference. Don't see this as aiding Gov. McDonnell in his vice presidential quest.

  • Anonymous on February 17, 2012 1:18 PM:

    Lithwick also observes that sponsors of the legislation offered no evidence that the ultrasound images obtained by these state-required violations of women will prevent a single abortion.

    ...when given the option, 72 percent of women chose to view the sonogram image. Of those, 86 percent said it was a positive experience. None changed their mind about the abortion.

    And what percentage of people look at the tissue after wiping and still decide to flush?

    Crude analogy, I know.

  • Sgt. Gym Bunny on February 17, 2012 1:31 PM:

    That was me above at 1:18PM

  • Anonymous on February 17, 2012 1:45 PM:

    This is just the beginning, women everywhere, except the brainwashed, are beyond angry, by November the impact could be devastating for Republicans. Culture issues, really? This is insane & certainly NOT a joke. It might fire up the repub base, but the general?

  • st john on February 17, 2012 2:04 PM:

    So, where are the women? Tens of thousands or hundreds of thousands? I'm still not hearing the outrage in the form of outright anger and verbal attacks on the perpetrators. Why is Darrell Issa still in one piece? That these fools are still given face time in public is astonishing to me.

    Slightly OT: if a religious institution can deny birth control coverage on the basis of their religious beliefs, why do I have to pay for war and killing with federal tax dollars if it goes against my own spiritual and religious beliefs? Does anyone here actually see the parallels?

  • pol on February 17, 2012 2:07 PM:

    I live in Virginia. I am so deeply pissed that one of the Democratic senators that I adored (until this legislative session), Chuck Colgan, voted for the ultrasound bill, because he is Catholic. Not only that, but he SPONSORED the personhood bill everyone is also talking about -- the one that deems life begins at conception.

    I can understand why Senator Colgan would VOTE for these bills, if that's what his conscience tells him. I cannot forgive him for sponsoring one of them. I feel betrayed.

    There will be a silent protest against the war on women at the Virginia state capitol in Richmond on Monday at 11:00 a.m.

  • pol on February 17, 2012 2:12 PM:

    I live in Virginia. I am so deeply pissed that one of the Democratic senators that I adored (until this legislative session), Chuck Colgan, voted for the ultrasound bill, because he is Catholic. Not only that, but he SPONSORED the personhood bill everyone is also talking about -- the one that deems life begins at conception.

    I can understand why Senator Colgan would VOTE for these bills, if that's what his conscience tells him. I cannot forgive him for sponsoring one of them. I feel betrayed.

    There will be a silent protest against the war on women at the Virginia state capitol in Richmond on Monday at 11:00 a.m.

  • latts on February 17, 2012 2:42 PM:

    Agree that a vaginal ultrasound is definitely uncomfortable and should never need to be performed separately from the abortion procedure (it may be SOP to use ultrasound to confirm dates just before starting). I'm really gobsmacked at this kind of openly gleeful vindictiveness on the part of the GOP-- being from the deep south, I always knew it was there, but most people were careful to present a much more pleasant face to the world in general, even in the seventies & eighties. I hope these are just the ugly & embarrassing death throes of their worldview, but am still worried.

    Here's a good, if depressing, Sara Robinson piece on how profoundly the ability of women to control their fertility shook up deeply ingrained power structures:

    http://www.alternet.org/visions/154144/why_patriarchal_men_are_utterly_petrified_of_birth_control_--_and_why_we%27ll_still_be_fighting_about_it_100_years_from_now/?page=entire

  • TCinLA on February 17, 2012 2:52 PM:

    And the wingnut scumbag who proposed this legislation answered the question of consent by saying the women had already given consent to be vaginally penetrated by becoming pregnant.

    You know, I am old enough to remember life before Griswold v Connecticut and I really don't recall this sort of misogyny being that "out there." Perhaps it was that I didn't recognize it for what it was. I do certainly recall a national SDS convention where the concept of Women's Liberation was first brought up in public, where the joking response of the radical men was to proclaim "I stand firmly erect in my support of pussy power" as proof that misogyny was not only found in the World of the Right (and I have always been happy that I was so ashamed of what I was seeing that I left the room - I should have spoken up against it, but didn't).

    But what is going on now with the Right is really beyond belief. For the past several years they have circulated a book, "The 1872 Husband" as a role model - the guy who kept his wife "in line" in a world where women "knew their place" (along with the nigras). This is the result.

  • mark on February 17, 2012 4:05 PM:

    Is this what Ron Paul would consider "honest rape?"

  • Harvest on February 17, 2012 7:03 PM:

    It is STATERAPE. Those who voted in favor of it are criminals.

    McDonnell will very likley sign it into law. He's a religious fanatic with designs on a veep spot on the R's ticket. He graduated from Pat Robertson's fake "law school" (renamed "Regent Univ." from "Christian Broadcasting Univ.") and has long advocated women being barefoot, pregnant, and in the kitchen.

  • exlibra on February 17, 2012 8:53 PM:

    Harvest, @7:03 PM

    All true, which is why he endorsed Romney (or R-money, as a clever "typo" has renamed him) -- his only chance at being a VP pick. With Santorum, he's out of luck; there's no way Repubs would accept a ticket of *two* fanatical Roman Catholics. With Romney, he'd provide a "Southern balance", as well as a different flavour of Christianity (however "cultist" both may be to many Protestants).

    None of my beeswax of course, but... Are you, by any chance, Peggy's son?

  • pjcamp on February 18, 2012 1:16 AM:

    It is simply punishment and humiliation.

    And on the up side, commitment to this sort of position pretty well guarantees that the upcoming generation of voters will think Republicans are a bunch of 16th century wankers.

  • Bob on February 18, 2012 7:29 AM:

    At the risk of being a bit too crude, one way to kill this misguided legislation is to add to it a requirement that all men....well....manually "prove" impotence in front of a doctor before getting a prescription for Viagra.

    Something tells me the male dominated, GOP controlled General Assembly would reject such a bill....out of hand ...so to speak.