EDITORIAL: Transvaginal ultrasound requirement unnecessarily invasive
Our View: Oklahoma must remove the transvaginal ultrasound requirement for abortions.
On Monday, the Oklahoma House rejected an amendment that would remove the requirement that women seeking an abortion be given a transvaginal ultrasound — a procedure in which a doctor inserts a probe into the woman’s vagina.
- Yes 17%
- No 83%
12 total votes.
The amendment, attached to House Bill 2381, targeted a law passed two years ago that requires an ultrasound be administered before a woman can receive an abortion. The law caused its share of controversy at the time, but one detail seemed to be lost in the debate: The law requires doctors to give either an external, abdominal ultrasound or a transvaginal ultrasound, depending on which is clearer.
This small but crucial detail gained new attention when Virginia attempted to pass a harsher version of this bill — one that would require transvaginal ultrasounds for every abortion. Thankfully, the version of the Virginia bill that recently passed made this procedure optional. But under Oklahoma’s law, this procedure still is mandatory in the majority of early-term abortions.
Let’s be clear: Under this law, the government is requiring an unnecessary procedure in which an object is inserted into a woman’s vagina before she is allowed access to a legal medical procedure.
This is sickeningly invasive. While some activists’ comparison to “state-sponsored rape” goes too far — and lessens the horrifying experiences of actual rape victims — the outrage this comparison expresses is justified. What justification could Oklahoma lawmakers possibly have for treading on the opinions of doctor’s and coercing women into intrusive exams?
How would these male politicians feel about a bill that required an uncomfortable, unnecessary rectal exam before a vasectomy?
It is clear the only motivation for protecting the transvaginal ultrasound requirement, instead of offering the option of abdominal ultrasounds in every case, is to reduce the number of abortions by increasing the discomfort of abortion procedures.
Then, of course, there’s the fact that the ultrasound requirement itself presents a needless hardship and unnecessary governmental intrusion.
Medical decisions should be left to a woman and her doctor. Since when are politicians more qualified than doctors to decide when a test is medically necessary and expedient for their patients?
And in many abortion cases, an ultrasound already is necessary. In the remaining cases, requiring an ultrasound would result in unnecessary and burdensome costs. Most women pay for abortions out of pocket, and the ultrasound would add about $150 to the average $470 that an abortion can cost, according to the Guttmacher Institute.
In the end, this procedure presents an undue burden on women seeking a legal medical procedure and the basic right to control their bodies — and it won’t even work to reduce abortions. Transvaginal ultrasounds, at least, are more effective early in the pregnancy, when the embryo is least developed and may even lack a heartbeat.
Since this tactic relies on emotionally blackmailing women into changing their minds, it seems transvaginal ultrasounds will be only slightly effective — and even then will only work because of the discomfort and embarrassment they may inflict when medically unnecessary and required by the state.
The best course would be to remove the ultrasound requirement altogether. But since that would require lawmakers to trust women to make responsible decisions with their own bodies, that is unlikely to happen. At the very least, lawmakers must act immediately to remove the intrusive transvaginal ultrasound requirement.
Let’s get the government out of women’s vaginas.