The Bishop and the Butterfly: Murder, Politics, and the End of the Jazz Age
    Ramona's picture

    Remember Transvaginal Ultrasounds? They're baaack.


    You have to hand it to those Republican legislators in Michigan, my beautiful, besieged state.  I swear, they must stay awake nights trying to think up ways to protect our wicked womanly bodies from the fools who happen to own them.  (That would be us, ladies.)  In late December, Gov. Snyder (R) signed a bill handed down by the Republicans setting strict limits on clinics providing abortions, in hopes they couldn't comply and would have to shut their doors.  In that same bill, doctors would now have to have a conversation with the patient, asking needless questions of mostly mentally competent women about whether or not they had been coerced. 

    These same Michigan Republicans, having already thrown their weight around, passing an unpopular, unprecedented Right-to-Work law in the state where labor successes made it the birthplace of the middle class, and then going against the voters to reinstate the hated emergency manager law, have again turned their sights on that old standby attention-getter, the fertile womb.

    You would think they might have other, better things to think about, considering it's the year 2013 and they haven't quite scaled all the walls of the castle yet, but here they are, socking it to us one more time with a new anti-abortion bill that includes forced ultrasounds, forced heartbeat recordings, forced lectures, forced permission slips, forced 24-hour cooling off periods--all in the interest of taking care of the little women who obviously can't even begin to fathom what's about to happen to them.

    Yes, on Tuesday, February 5, 18 Republican men and three Republican women put their signatures to House Bill 4187, wherein they take on the thankful task of coming as close to banning abortion as is politically possible in this, the early part of the 18th 21st century.   

    In the very first paragraph they let us know right off that whatever the hell the Federal government agreed to in Roe v. Wade, here in the the great state of Michigan, all bets are off:

    Sec. 17014. The legislature recognizes that under federal constitutional law, a state is permitted to enact persuasive measures that favor childbirth over abortion, even if those measures do not further a health interest.

    And that's just the beginning.  Let me grab one more section here--the highlight of the entire bill.  The ultrasound part:

    (iii) The performance of a diagnostic ultrasound examination of the fetus at least 2 hours before an abortion is performed with the woman given the option to view the active ultrasound image of the fetus, hear the fetal heartbeat, receive a physical picture of the ultrasound image of the fetus, and hear an explanation of the ultrasound image of the fetus. The performance of a diagnostic ultrasound examination of the fetus, now a standard practice at abortion facilities, protects the health of the woman seeking an abortion by verifying an intrauterine pregnancy, as undiagnosed ectopic pregnancies can result in potentially fatal complications and infertility.
    The performance of a diagnostic ultrasound examination of the fetus further protects the interests of the woman seeking an abortion by assessing the viability of the fetus and confirming the approximate gestational age of the fetus, as this information is necessary in order to determine appropriate medical care for the woman seeking an abortion.

    (All caps and bold was their idea.  I had nothing to do with it.)

    Well, I could be picking out juicy parts all over the place but I'll leave it to you to read the rest of the BS, while I get to the (seemingly) good part.

    Something (seemingly) big happened yesterday (Thursday, Feb 7, 2013).  Something that could potentially change everything.  Speaker of the House Jase Bolger came out and said there would be no bill from the House that would require invasive, transvaginal ultrasounds.

    And cheers were heard for miles around.  I mean!  The Republican Speaker of the House!  Said no Transvaginal Ultrasounds under his watch!  Lordamighty!

    But wait. . .

    House Bill 4187 doesn't use the word "transvaginal".  It's not anywhere in there.  So what is Speaker Bolger talking about when he says so carefully, "While I want to be sure women have access to the best technology available, I have absolutely no interest in forcing a woman to have a transvaginal ultrasound."

    That's what he said.  So why, in the heat of this glorious first, a moment when a Republican leader-man in Michigan actually comes out in defense of women. . .why am I so, so suspicious?

    Because it's Michigan and it's the House, and they're Republicans and we're talking about abortion.  Speaker Bolger didn't say he had absolutely no interest in forcing a woman to have an ultrasound.  No, he said, very specifically, a transvaginal ultrasound.

     So now we wait.  The shoe will drop from that other foot.  Mark my words.


    (Cross-posted at Ramona's Voices)


    I just do not understand this part of 'the movement'.

    I mean after witnessing legislative actions in Virginia, Wisconsin and other locales, this proposal designed to shame women who find themselves in dire straights must have come from somewhere.

    I understand that the tea partiers wish to curb the voting rights of poor folks and immigrants and all sorts of other people. That makes sense.

    And these same people wish to amend the 14th Amendment so that they can do away with 'anchor babies'.

    You would think that these meanies would want more abortions to be performed than less abortions?

    The only logical conclusion must be that 'they' wish to force immigrant women to carry their anchor babies to term and then throw both personages out of the country?

    And the teabaggers certainly do not wish to provide taxpayer funds to help sustain and nurture the  new babies that would result from these attempts to stem abortions.

    There are practical results from all these attempts to erase the tenets of Roe v. Wade of course.

    I mean South Dakotans simply have to drive a couple hundred miles to Minnesota for certain 'procedures'.

    I do know this; whether we are discussing the actions of repub legislators in Virginia or Michigan or Wisconsin or elsewhere, these legislators did not 'draft' any of this legislation. 

    Some very angry members of some think tank funded by some very evil people drafted this crap and nobody really knows what the legislation will actually do; how the legislation will actually work.

    The only thing that these legislators share is the evil intent behind the measures.


    I just came across this item at TP:



    Despite the promising trends, health officials in the city note that there are still significant racial and geographic disparities among the teens who are getting pregnant. The Bronx has the highest rate of teen pregnancy in the country, and African-American teens in New York City have a much higher pregnancy rate than their white counterparts — 110.7 births for every 1,000 back girls, compared with 16 births for every 1,000 white girls. That trend is evident on a national level, too. Black and Latina women have the highest rates of unplanned pregnancy and, subsequently, the highest rates of abortion.


    But the city’s school system is on the right track, since part of addressing the connection between poverty and teen pregnancy is increasing access to affordable birth control. Removing the cost barriers to contraception encourages low-income women to chooselonger-lasting, more effective forms of birth control that lower their risk for unintended pregnancy. And increasing adolescents’ access to Plan B is particularly important since the Department of Health and Human Services requires women under the age of 17 to obtain a prescription for Plan B, an unnecessary extra step that is often a barrier preventing adolescents from accessing the contraception they need in a timely manner.


    I really had no idea the discrepancies between ethnic backgrounds and pregnancies.


    Hi Richard.


    I just wanted to comment about the birth control issue. As far as I know, birth control pills and condoms, and even plan b, are all free to children.

    Under most health care plans, there is no share of cost for contraceptives for patients of any age.


    Is it lack information, perhaps, that is the true barrier for these women and children who have expressed a need for contraceptives but are going without?

    If you go back to the link you will find that the contention is that NY is one of 21 states that allows minors and others access to birth control.

    And the problem with the TP link is that it really amounts to nothing but a squib. And I attempted to check links within the links and...

    So I guess I will check PP later on and such for the stats.

    Anyway 29 states aint doin much in this area!


    Oh, I can just see the puritans tearing their hair out over this:

    The city has worked to make it easier for kids to get birth control — giving out condoms at schools and making birth control and the morning-after pill available in some school clinics, a sometimes controversial move.

    Farley said the numbers show that strategy is working.

    “It shows that when you make condoms and contraception available to teens, they don’t increase their likelihood of being sexually active. But they get the message that sex is risky,” he said. [...]

    Teen pregnancy in the city is still higher than it is nationwide, but it has fallen at a sharper rate, officials said.

    Plan B makes such infinite sense you have to wonder who could find a problem with it?  It's contraception-on-demand, the most logical form of birth control.  So much better than having to take pills for a month, just in case. Yet, look at the fuss they've made over it.  It's not about birth control, it's about controlling women.  It's always about controlling women.

    I do wonder about those statistics, however:  110.7 births for every 1,000 back girls, compared with 16 births for every 1,000 white girls?  I would like to see more about this.

    I do wonder about those statistics, however:  110.7 births for every 1,000 back girls, compared with 16 births for every 1,000 white girls?

    Remember that's for NYC, and our white people can't really be said to be equivalent to white people nationwide in many ways, not just teen pregnancy rates. Just for one thing, most working class and poor whites that work in the city don't live within the city line and the kids don't go to our schools. If they are residents of NYC, many of those might be in parochial schools, or specialty college-oriented public schools, like Bronx Science.

    I'm in the Bronx, and I don't notice a lot of teen black mothers anymore, what I do see is teen Latina mothers. And I've also read about Latina teen pregnancy being higher than Afro-American in local media. I've read that enough that I wonder about the presentation of stats in that article myself.

    The Latino immigrant culture here is mightly dominated by preference for family above all, with an attitude of "the more children, the merrier," though within marriage is of course preferred. I do see some evidence of the youngest Latino generation starting to care more for education before children, but not like in Southern California, where that change is stronger. Bronx "Latina" culture is highly Caribbean, different from much of the rest of the country--many from the Dominican Republic, Jamaica, Puerto Rico, and Central American, with Mexicans actually relatively rare until the last decade.

    Here's a 2010 paper at PubMed about a study on topic by the NYC Dept of Health & Mental Hygiene. I haven't looked at it but it sounds good because in the abstract it stresses that school neighborhood is one of the biggest factors, and that sounds very accurate to me:

    Richard, their hypocrisy is staggering.  When they rant about getting government out of our lives, what they really mean is our government.  They want to replace it with their government--which means no safeguards, no safety nets, no fair play.  They believe all it takes is money to overthrow the system already in place, and so far they're right.  All it takes is money.

    Ultrasounds are necessary to determine the gestation of the baby. Differences in days can mean a totally different procedure that is required to terminate the pregnancy.

    The abortion pill can only be safely used at a certain number of weeks, and a first trimester abortion can only be done AFTER about 4 weeks when the baby is visible on the ultrasound, or Mom could end up dead too.


    It can also mean prison time for abortion doctors who terminate a pregnancy a few days after the legal cut off.


    I see this as a good thing all around.

    Amber, can you explain why the government should get involved in a woman's decision to terminate a pregnancy? 

    Do you really believe a doctor should be subject to prison time if he/she doesn't time the termination to suit the government?

    Should the government decide other issues in our private lives?  If so, where would you draw the line? 

    And finally, wouldn't it be wonderful if birth control worked or was available 100% of the time?  

    There are many reasons to terminate a pregnancy, and not all of them are selfish.  I can't possibly know why women feel the need to make that decision. I do know that unless the decision is about my own pregnancy, I have no right to judge or to dictate what anyone else should do about it.   And the last thing I would want is for the government to be judge and dictator about a decision so private and so wrenching.

    Ultrasound is a good diagnostic tool. Its used in almost every pregnancy whether before an abortion or when a fetus is carried full term. Its simply not necessary to legislate it. There is no law requiring an ultrasound for pregnancies carried full term. Why not? Ultrasounds are commonly used to check organs, liver, kidney, heart, for lesions. Why not a law requiring it? Ultrasound is the preferred method for checking for tumors in the neck, thyroid, parathyroid, and salivary glands. Yet there is no law requiring it. Ultrasounds are is used in the investigation of anorectal symptoms such as fecal incontinence and obstructed defecation. Yet there is no law requiring an ultrasound and no push to require an anal probe ultrasound. Why not?

    Vaginal ultrasounds are used to diagnose potential problems with a pregnancy in the presence of certain symptoms. There is rarely any medical necessity to shove an ultrasound probe up a women's vaginal. So why should  women seeking an abortion be forced to have a vaginal ultrasound? If it is so important why not require all pregnant women to have a vaginal ultrasound?

    Ultrasounds are already used before most abortions. So why the law? The simple fact is these laws are designed to use emotion to stop abortions. Unlike this Michigan law many of the other state laws require the women to look at the ultrasound. They often require the doctor to give a verbal explanation of the results of the sonogram images, including a medical description of the dimensions of the embryo or fetus, the presence of cardiac activity, and the presence of external members and internal organs. The women is often required to listen to a fetal heartbeat.

    Here's the interesting thing. Some of the laws have exceptions, including pregnancies that resulted from sexual assault, incest or other violations of law. If these laws were concerned with medical necessity why would they have exceptions for rape and incest?

    There is no medical reason for these laws. The anti-abortion crowd simply want to make abortions so difficult and distasteful to attempt to sway a women's choice.




    The issue of rolling back reproductive rights of women has pushed women away from the GOP. As long as one state or another keep beating this drum, the political base for Republicans will get smaller. Women are paying attention to this all across the country.

    It makes it tough for them that all those states getting into women's panties again are RED states.  You're right; women notice those things.  Except Republican women, that is.  That could be a problem.

    Michigan is not a red state. It has been kidnapped by gerrymandering. Republican women are slowly walking away and their daughters refuse to accept the bullying. I have known women here in Florida that after their husbands die they change their voter registration. They didn't want their husbands to know they preferred the Democrats now and had been voting for them. This one of the reasons Rove is taking on the fringe.

    I know they show MI as a blue state on the electoral maps, but for all intents, it's a red state.  We have a Republican governor and the Republicans hold a majority in both the House and the Senate.  The MI supreme court has a Republican majority, as well.  So any way you look at it, unless they actually start listening to the people and not the Kochs, ALEC and the Mackinac Center, we're screwed.

    You know, sometimes we miss the good news.

    This is just a follow up at Salon on Teen pregnancy rates:

    I nevertheless stick with my call for sterilization.




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