I Can’t Call Hyperbole Here


I’m not even going to mince words on this one: Compelling a woman to
undergo an unnecessary vaginal probe to acquire a legal medical
procedure is fucking rape. There isn’t anyone on the planet who can
convince me that any women should have to exchange unrelated access to
her vagina forany legal medical procedure, including abortion, which itselfdoesn’t even require vaginal access in every case anymore.

During the Summer of Infertility Quack Fail Tour ’09, on our very first visit to the Doctors from Hell, which I thought was going to be a nice sit-down in the office to meet a team of people who’d be knocking me up, the nurse took my arm and said, “Come with me for your ultrasound.”

For my WHAT? For a test I wasn’t informed about in advance, to a test I flat-out refused until I spoke to the doctor. The fact that he acted like I was being extremely annoying by objecting and didn’t explain why he needed to do this — “I do this for all my patients” is not an explanation — should have been my first clue that I should run like hell. But I’m as susceptible as anyone to authority, especially to medical authority, and I felt like, “Okay, this sounds dumb, but surely they know what they’re doing.” I was angry at the lack of information but I agreed.

(You know, my every major mistake in life has come from ignoring the voice in the back of my head that says, “Don’t do this, don’t do this, don’t do this.” If you have one of those voices and you aren’t listening to it? START.)

So the test was uncomfortable, humiliating, and witnessed by a team of strangers. By the end of it I was homicidal. And this was me, relatively well-adjusted, in a perfectly healthy social situation with my husband next to me seething on my behalf, a mother I could call and whine to about it later, and nobody was lifing me about what my empty uterus was thinking or how it already was known to Jesus or any of the other crap this seems inspired to make women think. And thank merciful God, I didn’t have rape to compare it to. But it was bad enough, all the same.

Before the Infertility Tour of Fail last year, it had never really hit me just how truly ignorant about reproductive health male (and most female) pro-life lawmakers are. I’d just put their nonsense down to smuggery about sluts, general freedom-hating and panty-sniffing. And that’s in there, too, but largely? They have no idea how any of this works, the range of things that can go wrong and the range of things that can need to be done to fix them. Once you know everything that can happen inside you, it’s harder to get amped up about outlawing this or that procedure. No matter what the priest says.

We saw this in the stories that came out after George Tiller was murdered, about women who had ended up in his office because they were pregnant with desperately wanted children with whom something had gone horribly wrong, and because of our backwards-ass laws they had no way to resolve their crises. We see this now with this bullshit statement that giving someone a vaginal ultrasound is about information for the woman, with no concept of what that test is actually like, what it might mean to do that to somebody who HAS been raped, or who is scared, or who is lost, or who simply does not want it. It is a violation.

And I would have sympathy for people’s ignorance, but for that every man who suggests this kind of crap lives surrounded by women he’d only have to listen to in order to get a clear picture. Every woman who goes along with this line has friends who went through something she probably doesn’t know about. If any of them talked to women for five minutes they’d realize how completely fucking wrong this is, how invasive, how scary, and they’d back the fuck away.


6 thoughts on “I Can’t Call Hyperbole Here

  1. Oh, A., I wish they would back away if they knew. But the truth is they don’t care. Every one of us women must be prepared to absorb any (and every) indignity if we want the privilege of having something to say about what goes on in our own bodies.
    I want every man who gets behind this legislation to be catheterized with a garden hose before he gets to vote.

  2. Amen, athenae. As usual you’ve nailed it. The way women are treated when they are trying to getbpregnant, pregnant, or in labour is terrifying. But most people have no idea. Or they are just happy to forget. My first birth was like a kind of prison torture. It was made clear to me every minute that I was not the patient, the baby was. It was scary, and demeaning, and painful, –I can only imagine thevhorror of being put through this shit while trying to end a pregnancy.

  3. The thing about this is each woman confronted with these invasive “tests” will be so upset about it she will believe her experience is unique, because how can society have let this become standard practice? And no one will believe them when they do talk.
    A wave of horrifying lawsuits will be our only way back from this nightmare, and they cannot come too soon.

  4. The legal system is no real redress for this, of course, and most women aren’t going to be in a position to sue. The thing is, you have to prove you’ve been *harmed* by the law so you can’t sue in advance of being forced into it. Only after.
    I mean, as regards this part of the law. I can’t believe this can’t be challenged in advance as an infringement on all women’s liberty to access health care.
    Plus, can we please set up planned parenthoods in all the surrounding states, with free overnight stays, for women so they can get medical care outside of Oklahoma?

  5. I could see a successful challenge to this law from a doctor, who could argue both on the basis of liability and on the basis of conscience for being unwilling to commit sexual assault as a part of necessary medical care.
    Although usually I am against wishing assault on people, I think that a requirement of unsedated invasive ultrasound at each legislator’s next medical treatment might have a salutary effect.

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