website statistics

Virginia's pre-abortion ultrasound bill isn't for virgins, so what, they wonder, is the problem?

Update: Virginia has backed off transvaginal ultrasounds, but still want external belly ultrasounds for all women seeking abortions. So that's a big thank you for not having anything involuntarily stuck in our vaginas. We so appreciate your understanding and won't ask for anything else. Like safe, accessible and affordable abortions, which were in fact legal last time I checked.

For anyone who thinks we don't have a problem with attitudes towards virginity and women's sexuality in this country, let me set you straight. I'm out of the country so I'm just catching up on all the discussion last week regarding an amazingly invasive anti-abortion bill that passed in Virginia. My former Chicago Tribune colleague Eric Zorn wrote about it in the paper:

This month Republican majorities in both chambers in Virginia's Legislature passed one of the strictest mandatory pre-abortion ultrasound bills* in the nation — a measure that's certain to require women seeking early-stage abortions to submit to being vaginally penetrated by a condom-covered electronic probe before the abortion is allowed to proceed.

He's referring to a trans-vaginal ultrasound, a procedure where the ultrasound wand is inserted into the vagina to get more detailed images than can be obtained from outside on the belly. Many people have been outraged about this requirement and have written about this, but I'm quoting Eric's column because of a comment he got on this post that he then highlighted on his blog. This is the comment he received:

When you write about a woman seeking an abortion having "to submit to being vaginally penetrated by a condom covered electric probe" I understand you are trying to shock your readers using this metaphor, however hasn't the woman's vagina already been penetrated? We are not discussing a virgin.

Basically, once a woman's had intercourse, what's the big deal if she's penetrated again, under whatever circumstances? Unbelievably, this attitude has come up several times in the discussion of this bill. I checked the calendar and it's indeed 2012, and the fact that this virgin/whore model of female sexuality persists is astonishing and horrifying.

It hearkens back to US rape laws that punished the penetration of a virgin far more harshly than if it happened to woman who was not considered a virgin. Restitution went to the wronged party–the father or future husband of the woman–to compensate for the damage to 'property.' While these laws are thankfully no longer on the books, the attitude remains. Rape victims today can expect their sexual history to be used against them to diminish or destroy their case.

So Virginia has now passed a bill requiring totally medically-unnecessary involuntary state-mandated penetration for any woman seeking an abortion in Virginia. In other words, government-sanctioned rape to gain access to a legal medical procedure. But don't worry. It's not like they're virgins.

*The only bright light in all of this Sen. Janet Howell, who introduced an amendment that would have required men seeking erectile dysfunction medication to submit to rectal exams.