Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Oklahoma mandates rape before abortion

Today, Oklahoma's legislature passed a law which forces a woman to have a vaginal ultrasound showing her fetus before she is allowed to have an abortion. If you've never had the pleasure of having or at least watching a vaginal ultrasound, let me describe for you the ultrasound probe.

See, you can get a better picture of the fetus if you put an ultrasound emitter into the vagina, where it's closer to the uterus. Some engineer somewhere many years ago had to figure out the best shape to use to enter a vagina. Nature had the same problem and created an erect penis, and our engineer wound up inventing a similarly-shaped device. Having a vaginal ultrasound means getting this penis-shaped probed placed in your vagina. It's fairly unpleasant in a medical setting, as you might imagine. But it gives you a better picture than a traditional ultrasound which places the probe on the woman's abdomen, and sometimes it's medically necessary to get a REALLY good look at a fetus (or gynelogical cancer, or anything else you'd want a good look at).

At the hospitals where I've trained, like hospitals everywhere, they're concerned about passing infections from patient to patient. When it comes to vaginal ultrasound probes, they had to find something to cover the probes as they're being used. At my hospitals, they use condoms. Regular ol' off-the-shelf Trojan condoms.

So Oklahoma just mandated by law that a medical professional put a condom over a penis-shaped object and insert it in a woman's vagina, whether she likes it or not, before that woman can have an abortion.

Government-sanctioned rape; it's not just for war-torn African countries anymore!

As a medical doctor, it strikes me as quite unethical for gynecologists and ultrasound technicians to participate in this. Hopefully the American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) will provide support to its members who don't want to go along with mandated rape.


Anonymous said...

So are you saying that this is an attempt to dissuade women from getting abortions in the first place, or punishing them for doing so?


PoliticalDoctor said...

I think it's pretty clear that this is an attempt to dissuade a woman from getting abortions. Another part of the law is that the ultrasound tech has to give the woman detailed information about the fetus (heart, size, etc.) to try to provoke guilt or whatever.

A second law passed the same day protects doctors from lawsuits if they lie to you about genetic or other congenital problems your fetus might have. So if a doctor thinks you'll get an abortion if you're told your fetus has Down Syndrome or a horrible heart defect, he's legally protected if he decides to lie to you about it.

The legislature is doing anything they can to stop abortions, even if it means having doctors lie to patients or having them stick a probe in their hoo-ha.

Valerie said...

I don't really see the vaginal ultrasound as being any more heinous than the requirement to have any ultrasound before an abortion (at least they let you pee first for a vaginal one). As far as being uncomfortable, it doesn't hold a candle to the procedure you have to go through to get birth-control pills in every state.

That they can lie to you about test results is the worse part. I'm curious how they justify arguing that women need more information (from the ultrasound) while simultaneously allowing doctors to withhold more pertinent information. Cognitive dissonance much?

Libby said...

Valerie makes a good point-- plus, the recommendations on pap smears have changed recently and most women no longer need them regularly. But you sure do need them to get oral contraceptives!

And I think it's not so much that vaginal ultrasounds are particularly awful, but the symbolism of government-mandated rape. And any doctor who omits the information that your fetus has a congenital condition should have his/her license taken away, that's completely unethical.

As Jeff said to me last night, I can understand why someone might be pro-life. But I can't understand how someone could support these laws. Also, imagine my surprise when I awoke this morning to one unread post from The Political Doctor! Keep it up, hubby. :)

PS-- I'm a student member of ACOG, I'm gonna write an e-mail!

PoliticalDoctor said...

Actually, there's been a lot of movement over the past decade on the question of whether a Pap/Pelvic is necessary before starting birth control pills. Currently, neither the AAP (Pediatrics) nor ACOG guidelines require a pelvic to be performed. In my own residency clinic, we don't routinely do them. Of course, if for example a girl wants to start the pill because of some problem like abnormal bleeding, I might do an exam just to make sure there's not a structural/anatomic problem, but for your typical teenager with acne and/or raging hormones, I don't do one. And at least in states where I've been training (OH, PA, WV), there is no law mandating a pelvic be done.

doctor help online said...

This is a different thing I have ever heard about. This ultrasound technology really sounds to be different.
Nice sharing of some new information. Appreciate it. Keep posting more.