A new anti-choice bill has just been passed in South Dakota and is now awaiting the inevitable signature of the state’s anti-choice governor. It will require OB/GYNs who perform abortions (not “abortion doctors,” as the article calls them) to ask their patients if they would like to view the ultrasound images of their fetus prior to an abortion. No, they won’t force her to look at the ultrasound, but the legislators behind the bill are pretty damn upfront about their goal.
Doctors already do sonograms to determine the stage of pregnancy and protect themselves from malpractice lawsuits, said Rep. Roger Hunt, R-Brandon. Women who get abortions pay for those sonograms and should be asked if they want to see them, he said.
Asking women if they would like to see sonograms may cause more of them to change their minds about abortions, Hunt added.
“All that this does is require that doctor performing the abortion to fully inform the woman of all of the same medical information that that abortion doctor has access to,” he said.
“All we’re doing is wanting to make sure that the woman who is making a decision about her unborn child is fully informed,” Hunt said.
Aw, thanks Captain Paternalism! Aren’t we ladies lucky to have nice daddy legislators looking out for us?
I was unable to find what the penalty for breaking this regulation would be in the text of the bill. As far as I can tell, there isn’t one listed, and my guess is that it’s covered under another law governing abortion providers and how much they’ll have to pay/how long they’ll spend in jail for failing to fill out the appropriate paperwork. (Any legal smarty-pants out there who can help me find it?)
But reading the bill text does give us insight into the motives behind it. They say that it’s to talk women out of abortion. We know that getting women to “change their minds” actually means “assuming that women are stupid” and “trying our hardest to make the women who don’t change their minds feel guilty.” That’s where the woman’s signature comes in — it’s not enough to say “no,” she has to sign a piece of paper letting the government know that she said no. It’s a form of shaming, plain and simple. The paperwork apparently requires all kinds of other ridiculous information from the abortion provider — more or less, a way of keeping demographic information on the women who have abortions. Oh no, they’re not going to have your name on file (uh huh), but I bet that signing that paper will sure as fuck make you feel like they do. When the demographic information on which women did and didn’t look at the ultrasound images is used to better target anti-choice propaganda, I’ll be just as surprised as I am by the sun rising every morning.
Here is something that I find to be terribly interesting and confusing all at once. Anti-choice legislator Deb Peters opposes the bill, and loudly:
Rep. Deb Peters, R-Hartford, who opposes abortion, urged defeat of the bill. The state has ample restraints on those who do abortions, she said.
“We’re talking about personal issues. This goes too far,” Peters argued.
Previously, she had this to say:
“I was told that my child was going to be born without a head or that the … spinal cord was going to be outside of the vertebrae in the back. I had to have all of these tests. I had to go through genetics counseling. I had to do numerous things, and in that situation, you’re faced with a life and death decision. It’s not a decision that’s taken lightly,” said Rep. Deb Peters, R-Hartford.
Peters later told a reporter that she had the child, and he is a perfectly healthy 10-year-old today.
Peters said she opposes abortion but does not favor HB1193, which cleared the House 38-31.
“It’s not doing what you think it’s doing,” she said of the bill. “You’re going to be torturing women like me who have to make a life and death decision, and it’s not fair.”
Peters voted in favor of the infamous South Dakota abortion ban. She has also co-sponsored more than one anti-choice bill. She advertises herself as anti-choice. And she is a vocal opponent of this bill. So what the hell gives?
Has she had a change of heart? People who don’t understand what “pro-choice” means will often identify as someone who personally opposes abortion, even though they think it should be legal. The situation with her son is not a satisfying explanation, since that incident was 10 years ago. My best guess is that reading this bill really brought the issue home to her. She was a woman who considered a “good” abortion for “good” reasons. You know, not a baby-hating, baby-killing slut. Could the idea of being lumped in with the women who have “bad” abortions be deeply troubling to her? And more importantly, but less likely, has it caused her to feel any compassion for the women who didn’t have her definition of a really, really, really good reason? You know, instead of just having compassion for herself. I hold no hopes that this is actually the case, but if it were, it wouldn’t be the first time that someone has changed their mind on abortion after realizing that the woman in question could be them.
Regardless of Peters’ other feelings, she is right on this one. The bill makes no exception for hospitals, where emergency abortions are performed. It makes no exception for severely deformed fetuses, women who are experiencing life-threatening medical problems, or women who became pregnant by rape — women who could be made to feel deeply distraught over the mere suggestion of looking at an ultrasound, let alone signing a form on the subject. A lot of women are just going to be pissed off, and with good reason. But clearly, the state doesn’t give a shit about the women they’re supposedly trying to protect, since the ideology wrapped up in this lovely little law is worth the deep distress of those who least want to need an abortion.
Of course, I should hope that the choir I’m preaching to would know by now that anti-choice legislators “helping” and “protecting” women never have any actual intent to help or protect anyone. And though it should go without saying, I am indeed pretty fucking tired of a woman’s body turning into a battleground the moment that sperm meets egg. It’s dehumanizing, it’s objectifying, and that is precisely the point. The fact that the public is apparently perfectly okay with that terrifies and depresses me more than you’ll ever know.