Forced Vaginal Ultrasounds: An open letter.

by , under personal, politics

Dear Politicans of the United States (and the People Who Vote for Them)

There have been a lot of bills going around trying to find ways to undermine abortion. Except in trying to find legal ways to get rid of it- they’ve been creating laws to treat women as second class citizens.

One of the more popular laws being proposed and passing, are laws that require a woman seeking an abortion to undergo a vaginal ultrasound and having the fetus be described in detail. A lot of women’s rights groups are likening this to assault, since it’s a forced medical procedure.

Let’s leave abortion out of this discussion. What I’m here to write about today has nothing to do with where I stand on the issue, it’s about being a woman and standing up to protect other women.

To anyone who doesn’t know why this is a big deal, ask women what they think of going for their annual exams at a gynecologist. Why it’s important to find a gyno they feel comfortable with. It’s because as part of the exam a speculum is inserted into the vagina- and if you’re the slightest bit uncomfortable, your body will try to fight that. It’s an uncomfortable experience, enough that many women skip important health screenings.

Vaginal ultrasounds involve a probe wand being inserted into the vaginal canal to get a better look at the area.

I can speak to their discomfort. I’ve had two in my adult life, and can remember them with vivid detail. Both were procedures I consented to. The first was when I was 18 and in the ER with severe abdominal pains. They were concerned that it was my appendix, and suggested that an ultrasound would be the easiest and safest way to diagnose the problem.

Into the curtained area rolled an ultrasound tech with the machine. A man. Who looked like George Lucas. (TheBoy can verify that part, though they made him wait outside the curtained area) I asked if there were any female ultrasound techs, and after he checked, he verified that all of them were currently busy- and that if it was my appendix, that there might not be time enough for me to wait. No matter how I tried to relax, I couldn’t. So when he used the wand. It hurt. A lot. (It turned out not to be my appendix, btw. Just insanely bad cramps that needed more than over the counter ibuprofen to go away)

The second and last time was my hospital stay last year. I kept having recurring stomach pain and when I was hospitalized for a blood transfusion, the gastroenterologist I was referred to ran a ton of tests to take advantage of where I was. And yes, I needed an ultrasound to try to look at portions of my intestines. This time the ultrasound tech was a woman who spoke very kindly and calmly. It was still uncomfortable and painful.

Not to get into too much detail about my personal life, but I don’t have issues with pain during sex. So I feel like the discomfort (emotionally and physically) I experienced is probably pretty typical for the procedure. And those were two times that I knew they were needed to diagnose what was wrong with me- and I’m the sort of person who will happily endure 6 blood draws over the span of 36 hours and IVs inserted awkwardly at my wrist and elbow if it means I’ll get a diagnosis.

I do have an excellent memory. I can remember the best moments of my life in vivid detail- but the worst as well. The moments that were middling… I don’t remember in that much detail. Considering that I can remember everything about the two ultrasounds, I hope that helps you understand that it isn’t an experience I want to revisit.

Forcing women to have vaginal ultrasounds is nothing more than an attempt to scare and shame women into changing their minds. It is wrong- especially since there haven’t been any provisions to exclude women who were victims of sexual assault. That’s right. Violating a woman who was already violated.

Please, no matter where you stand on the issue of abortion, please stand up for women. If you live in a state where these bills are being proposed and being passed- please call your representatives. Tell them that you do not feel that this is an appropriate way to address abortion. It treats women as second class citizens, forcing them to undergo an invasive procedure- the legal definition of assault.

In a few states, it’s recently come out that they had forced sterilization of people that various states deemed feeble minded, due to mental health, poverty level and race. And it’s been met with outrage across the board. Yet allowing forced procedures like vaginal ultrasounds just begins to take us back down that slippery slope into allowing the government to decide that other invasible medical procedures are necessary.

Please. Don’t let the politicians wage war on women. Don’t let the government listen to a vocal minority and assume that’s how we all feel.

Whitney

If you’re not sure who your representatives are at any level, check out http://www.votesmart.org/ and input your address. It’ll spit out who represents you from the Presidential level all the way down to your local government. Then just click on their portaits and you’ll get their phone numbers and emails. If you’re truly upset, actually call and speak to someone. Emails don’t seem to weigh as heavily as a physical letter or a phone call.

  • Mel Nelson

    It is a disservice to women to force them to endure a vaginal ultrasound if they do not want one.  It can (clearly) be a very painful process, even under the best of circumstances (you want the baby and want to check on him/her).  Amazing.  Most the info on how to write our legislators etc.  I think it would be a good idea.  :) 

  • Mel Nelson

    Pardon me, POST the information not Most.  

  • http://www.whitneydrake.com/ Whitney Drake

    Excellent point!  I’ve added it. :)