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Wisconsin Republicans: Forcing Women To Undergo Transvaginal Ultrasounds Is Our ‘Priority’

By Tara Culp-Ressler on February 15, 2013 at 9:00 am

"Wisconsin Republicans: Forcing Women To Undergo Transvaginal Ultrasounds Is Our ‘Priority’"

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Example of a transvaginal ultrasound procedure

At the Wisconsin Right to Life Legislative Conference this week, the state’s top Republican lawmakers assured attendees that they will do everything in their power to enact a forced ultrasound bill, which would mandate an invasive transvaginal probe for some women seeking first-trimester abortions. “This bill is a priority,” Wisconsin Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald (R) said. “It is long overdue.”

At the same conference, the executive director of Wisconsin Right to Life, Barbara Lyons, claimed that the “Woman’s Right to Know her Unborn Child Act” doesn’t actually intend to mandate a transvaginal ultrasound. But, as the Capital Times reports, regardless of the anti-abortion community’s intentions, the fact of the matter is that requiring an ultrasound before an abortion will necessitate that at least some women undergo the invasive, medically unnecessary procedure:

Rep. Chris Taylor, D-Madison, is the former public policy director for Planned Parenthood of Wisconsin. She says requiring an ultrasound to be performed before all abortions would mean an invasive procedure for women who are less than 12 weeks pregnant.

At that stage in a pregnancy, she said, the uterus may be blocked by the pelvis, preventing a traditional ultrasound from picking up the image. Thus, a vaginal ultrasound would need to be performed in order to provide an image for a medical professional to discuss with a woman.

Lyons warned conference attendees that “critics will say a vaginal ultrasound is the equivalent of rape.” She added that “the bill does not require this form of ultrasound.”

But Taylor said complying with the bill, if it is passed, might necessitate vaginal ultrasounds in some cases.

Wisconsin’s current law already requires women to undergo a counseling session with their doctor 24 hours before having an abortion, under the false pretense that the women who seek to terminate a pregnancy must not be confident about their decision. Doctors already provide those women with information about ultrasound services. But under the new forced ultrasound measure, women would be forced to undergo an ultrasound — and potentially a transvaginal probe, depending on how far along in her pregnancy she is — without her consent.

Lyons is rightfully concerned about women’s health advocates construing the bill as “the equivalent of rape.” At the height of the War on Women last spring, Virginia Republicans incited a firestorm when they pushed a similar transvaginal ultrasound bill, and reproductive rights groups decried the legislation as “state sponsored rape.” But that hasn’t stopped anti-choice lawmakers from continuing to push legislation that would require invasive ultrasound procedures. Just last week, Michigan lawmakers proposed their own version of the legislation, although the state’s top Republicans were forced to clarify that they would “not pass a bill mandating transvaginal ultrasounds” after controversy erupted.

However, no matter how Wisconsin’s anti-choice activists attempt to construe their motives, the insidious implications of their ultrasound bill are clear. “It is not up to the men, or the women for that matter, in the Legislature to be telling doctors they must do certain things…especially uncomfortable, invasive procedures before a woman can undergo a legal procedure,” Taylor told the Capital Times. “People should be outraged that this is how lawmakers are spending their time.”

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