Will McDonnell back state-mandated, medically unnecessary transvaginal ultrasounds?
Rachel has covered recent developments in Virginia on the show this week, most notably one of the most offensive anti-abortion measures ever considered in the United States. As regular viewers know, Republican state lawmakers in the Commonwealth have approved a bill to require women who wish to terminate a pregnancy to undergo an ultrasound, even if it's medically unnecessary, and even if they don't want one.
More specifically, however, because of the way the legislation is written, the practical effects are breathtaking: most women in Virginia seeking first-trimester abortions will be required by the state to undergo a transvaginal ultrasound.
For Republican policymakers in the 21st century, this is what passes for limited-government principles: invasive and unnecessary medical procedures, mandated by politicians, overriding the judgment of medical professionals, and without the consent of patients.
Dahlia Lithwick asked a good question in Slate yesterday: "Where's the outrage?"
Proponents seem to be of the view that once a woman has allowed a man to penetrate her body once, her right to bodily autonomy has ended.
During the floor debate on Tuesday, Del. C. Todd Gilbert announced that “in the vast majority of these cases, these [abortions] are matters of lifestyle convenience.” (He has since apologized.) Virginia Democrat Del. David Englin, who opposes the bill, has said Gilbert’s statement “is in line with previous Republican comments on the issue,” recalling one conversation with a GOP lawmaker who told him that women had already made the decision to be "vaginally penetrated when they got pregnant." (I confirmed with Englin that this quote was accurate.)
That’s the same logic that animates the bill’s sponsor in the House of Delegates, Del. Kathy J. Byron, who insisted this week that, “if we want to talk about invasiveness, there's nothing more invasive than the procedure that she is about to have." Decoded, that means that if you are willing to submit to sex and/or an abortion, the state should be allowed to penetrate your body as well.
Dahlia added that the state-mandated procedure being pushed by Virginia Republicans "under any other set of facts," would "constitute rape under state law."
The next question is whether Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell (R), who makes no secret of his desire to join his party's presidential ticket this year, intends to sign this monstrous piece of legislation. He's already expressed his support, but the governor's office indicated yesterday McDonnell and his staff still intend to "review" the bill, and may yet make changes to it.
In the meantime, in light of the larger Republican agenda of late -- limiting contraception access, targeting Planned Parenthood, opposing the Violence Against Women Act, "Personhood" amendments -- Dahlia suggests there's a "War on Women" underway. Given the circumstances, it's hard to reach any other conclusion.