What is a trans-vaginal ultrasound, besides a medical procedure that Texas law requires doctors perform on abortion-seeking Texans whether they want it or not?
Well, it sure isn’t jelly-on-the-belly. A trans-vaginal ultrasound is a penetrative procedure that studies have shown does not actually change abortion-seeking minds. So let’s be super, super clear: as of today, Texas can and no doubt will require–require!–people to be penetrated vaginally with a tubular probe if they want to obtain a legal medical procedure. Again: abortion-seeking people may not refuse the vaginal probe, and doctors face legal consequences if they do not administer it, even if they feel it is medically unnecessary or their patients do not want it.
I’d like to quote Melissa McEwan at Shakesville:
“A woman or trans man who cannot access a legal medical procedure without submitting hir body to a vaginal probe cannot be said to be meaningfully consenting. Consent requires a choice. Consent requires a choice, because consent without a choice is not consent; it’s coercion.”
I think I’ll be filing this blog entry under “rape culture.”
UPDATE: I do want to clarify that the point of talking about this procedure is not to vilify the procedure itself–it’s my understanding that it is routinely conducted as a regular part of reproductive health practice on women, pregnant and otherwise, and I have no problem with that. What’s scary to me is that abortion-seeking people (at least, those who cannot prove that they’ve been raped or are victims of incest or are carrying a very sick fetus) cannot, as this law stands, opt out of undergoing the procedure. It’s the not giving women, and the not giving doctors, a choice about it that is horrifying to me. I am enraged by the extreme, heavy-handed patriarchal presumption that if the state does not stand in every doctor’s office and make sure that trans-vaginal probes are inserted and fetal descriptions are read, that abortion-seeking people of Texas, and abortion-providing people of Texas, cannot make sound medical decisions.
I want to talk about the nature of the procedure to illustrate that what we’re talking about here is on a different level than, say, getting your temperature taken or a throat swab. I’m confident that a lot of women understand this, because a lot of women understand that a even basic gynecological exam can be really uncomfortable even in the best circumstances and genuinely traumatic in others, but I’m not sure men–and certainly not the men behind this particular law–understand what it is they’re talking about. What I’m saying is: let’s really, really look at what we’re doing here. You want to regulate women’s bodies? Let’s fucking throw down and talk about vaginal probes, y’all.
What I think needs to be understood, and what being really clear about this medical procedure illustrates, is the degree to which it is preposterous that people without vaginas would even attempt to presume to even think about talking about telling women what to do with this part of their bodies. Except it is not preposterous. It is status quo. Women’s bodies are and classically have been up for discussion, intervention, modification, invasion. I really can’t imagine talking about men’s bodies this way. And sadly, I continue to be unable to forsee a world in which we don’t talk about women’s bodies this way.
So yes, the vaginas are already being probed, people. The doctors are already being consulted. And women are still choosing abortion. They will continue to choose abortion. They will especially continue to choose abortion when access to contraception is ever-more reduced. They will even continue to choose abortion if they have to wait 24 hours between an ultrasound and the actual procedure, which according to Texas law, they now do. They will even continue to choose abortion if they have to listen to a doctor describe a fetus, which they now do.
Whether they will continue to choose abortion and also be able to get it safely, reliably and legally, however ….