Interesting piece by pro-choice author Jeannie explaining why mandated transvaginal ultrasounds should not be likened to rape. I don’t agree with her on every count–for example I don’t see how anti-abortion folks are to blame for imagery purported by abortion rights activists–but I still think her overall message is valid, particularly her 3rd point.
Arguments that metaphorize—that symbolically associate—the ultrasounds to rape are dangerous in three ways. First, they demonize healthcare providers. This, I am sure, is a planned effect of the anti-abortion politicians’ strategy. Just days after the
Virginiagovernor refused to sign the transvaginal ultrasound law, a prominent anti-abortion website ran a story about the percentage of abortion clinics that use transvaginal ultrasounds, suggesting that these providers are, indeed, rapists. I believe we have played right into their hands.Second, the association of transvaginal ultrasound to rape serves to demoralize women who have these ultrasounds. Imagine that you are a pregnant woman in Virginia, at your doctor’s office (for either an abortion or prenatal care). Your doctor says to you, “Your abdominal ultrasound is inconclusive. We’re going to try a transvaginal ultrasound to see if we can get a better picture, OK?” You’ve heard the words “invasive” and “shove” and “rape” used to describe this procedure by everyone from the left to the right. How are you going to react, at this already-emotional moment? Are you going to think, my doctor is doing the best she can for me right now? I don’t think so. I think you will be scared and angry and possibly too overwhelmed to know what to say. This, too, is part of the anti-abortion politicians’ strategy: all women should be ashamed and afraid, unable to make our own decisions.Third, the metaphorization of transvaginal ultrasound to rape euphemizes, or makes less awful, rape in a way that I personally find offensive. Seriously, I don’t know anyone who describes her rape experience as clinical in any way—and that’s the inverted implication of the metaphor. We must be very careful, when we make our arguments, that we do not invoke a message that hurts other women, even inadvertently. Now, I know that no feminist who has made this argument has intended to promote a message that rape is not so traumatic, but isn’t that where the argument ultimately goes? This metaphor says to women who have experienced rape, “Your experience is really no worse than what happens to other women at the doctor’s office.” I know no one wants to give that impression to anyone.