As we reported on Monday, this week's strip of Doonesbury comics takes aim at the absurdity of Texas's mandatory sonogram law, which requires a transvaginal ultrasound of women seeking abortions in Texas. Tuesday and Wednesday's cartoons will be appreciated by Burnt Orange Report readers, as they stick it to the three middle-aged male Republicans responsible for this bill: Governor Rick Perry, State Senator Dan Patrick, and State Representative Sid Miller. The cartoons also bring in the ongoing Republican war on birth control, as the GOP wants to come between women and their monthly blister packs of pregnancy-prevention.
Here are Tuesday and Wednesday's strips:
Tuesday's panel, in which "Sid Patrick" (hmm, sounds like a mash-up of Sid Miller and Dan Patrick to me...) asks the young lady if her parents know she's "a slut," resonates strongly with the remarks made by Radio Blowhard Rush Limbaugh, in which he called Georgetown law student Sandra Fluke a "slut" and a "prostitute" for not only using birth control pills, but also having the audacity to speak up as a woman in favor of access to women's healthcare. More than 30% of American women who use contraception use The Pill. Looks like Rush just insulted one third of the country's ladies. Good work.
Additionally, 14% of pill-takers use them for non-contraceptive purposes including premenstrual dysphoric disorder, endometriosis, and controlling acne. Women also take the pill when they're prescribed other medications that have the risk of birth defects, to make sure they don't get pregnant. Thanks to the ongoing war by Texas Republicans on women's health and family planning programs, there are legions of women lining up to tell their stories about taking the pill for a variety of non-sexy reasons. In short, women take the pill for a whole lot of reasons, and it's none of our legislators' damn business why, nor is it their job to forbid us from receiving them.
Wednesday's panel takes direct aim at Rick Perry, who made sonogram legislation an "emergency item" to speed up the process by which it worked its way through the Republican legislature and into the vaginas of Texas. In his press release, Perry stated that the goal of the legislation was to make sure the "patient understands what's truly at stake" -- because, you know, most women seeking abortions have no idea that they're terminating a pregnancy.
Perry added that he hopes the sonograms compel women to make what he terms "the right choice" -- i.e. not to have the abortion. Of course, sonogram laws don't actually deter many women from having an abortion at all. The real key here is the 24-hour waiting period and procedural delays it causes women. Women need to take an extra day off from work, travel twice, pay for gas twice, pay for other childcare twice, all to exercise their legal right to an abortion. (Meanwhile, all of Perry's efforts to end women's health and family planning in Texas will only increase abortions, as a result of increasing unwanted pregnancies. Bitter irony!)
The St. Louis Post-Dispatch ran a story about the hardships of Texas women who now seek abortions under the sonogram law, and quoted two providers who described their patients' experiences with the law. (Ironically, the Post-Dispatch is one of the papers that refused to run the Doonesbury cartoon, since it wasn't "family friendly" enough.) From their article on the sonogram law, emphasis mine:
"What we have noticed primarily is absolute outrage that they have to come twice," [Amy Hagstrom Miller, CEO of Whole Women's Health] said. "Many of our clients are already mothers; they know what is on a sonogram. They don't see it and say 'Oh, my gosh, I'm pregnant' and change their minds."
"It treats women as if they are stupid and don't know what is in their uterus," [Jenni Beaver, assistant director at Southwestern Women's Surgery Center in Dallas] said. "The law just creates hoops and barriers and drives up the cost for the women. And we have not had anyone decide not to have an abortion because of a sonogram."
Beaver's comments above are accurate with other research on sonogram laws: they don't cause women to change their minds. However, the increased procedural hurdles -- waiting periods, added costs -- do deter some women from accessing abortion, and as always it's the low-income and rural women who will suffer the most.
Wednesday's comic ends as the resigned doctor reads the ideological claptrap required by the state. As far as the Legislature is concerned, doctors "cannot be trusted" to provide their patients with the necessary information about abortion and have to say what the government thinks is correct. It's a move that irked the American Medical Association, and it's a move that should send a clear message to Texas doctors and patients alike: when it comes to women's healthcare, the Republican legislature thinks only they know best.
Congratulations, Republican lawmakers of Texas! Your sonogram law has hit the big-time: week-long ridicule in "Doonesbury." The 40-year daily cartoon strip that frequently takes aim at political and social issues will turn the light on the absurdity that is Texas's mandatory transvaginal ultrasound law, also known as the sonogram law.
Not surprisingly, a few daily papers are refusing to publish the cartoon, claiming that the illustrated rendition of an actual law in Texas is "too much" for the "family-friendly fun" of the cartoon page.
The plot of the series of strips features a woman seeking a sonogram in order to have an abortion. She's asked, "Do your parents know you're a slut?" Before inserting the probe, the doctor says to her, "By the authority invested in me by the GOP base, I thee rape." Later, a receptionist says, "The Republican Party is hoping you get caught in a shame spiral and change your mind."
Is it charged rhetoric? Sure. Does it accurately convey the intent of the Republican sonogram law, passed in Texas and percolating elsewhere across the country? Abso-friggin'-lutely.
Here's Monday's strip:
Quite naturally, a few weak-willed newspaper editors refused to run the strip that is, I note, based on an actual law and actual procedure women in Texas and elsewhere now have to endure to exercise their rights. The St. Paul Pioneer Press, Oregonian, and St. Louis Post-Dispatch have pulled the strips, among others.
The Post-Dispatchcredits aborting the strip to its "graphic language" and "unsuitable language" for a section with "young readers." Hey, editors, how else are we supposed to train young women for the lifetime of slut-shaming that awaits them? How else will your young female and male readers find out that Republicans view women as objects worthy of scorn at best, and beings incapable of making their own decisions without unwanted bodily penetration at worst?
The Oregoniansays comic Garry Trudeau "went over the line of good taste and humor." You know what's actually over the line? Forcing doctors to perform medically unnecessary sonograms and read ideological claptrap to their patients.
In an interview, Trudeau defended his use of the word "rape" to describe the sonogram law:
Texas's HB-15 isn't hard to explain: The bill says that in order for a woman to obtain a perfectly legal medical procedure, she is first compelled by law to endure a vaginal probe with a hard, plastic 10-inch wand. The World Health Organization defines rape as "physically forced or otherwise coerced penetration - even if slight - of the vulva or anus, using a penis, other body parts or an object." You tell me the difference.
The only difference I see is that the WHO hasn't adopted the 17th Century attitudes towards women that pervade the Texas Legislature.
This is BOR's Video of the Day, or VOTD, our nightly video clip segment that hopefully provides you with a laugh at the end of the day.
This song was written amidst the national outcry over Virginia's mandatory sonogram law, the same law that passed into law and is currently being enforced here in Texas. Virginia has backed down, but today we find out that North Carolina and Alabama are introducing similar laws. The song by Jonathan Mann remains appropriate, though at the rate this law is going, he needs to record a version with every other state's name in it.
Check out all of our BOR videos of the day on the VOTD tag.
Not to be outdone by the troglodytes in the Texas legislature, Republicans in the Virginia and Iowa statehouses are pushing for women to be forced to receive a mandatory trans-vaginal sonogram before getting an abortion. It's no surprise to see the law being repeated in other states, given Republicans' national war on women. Furthermore, since efforts by the Center for Reproductive Rights to beat back the sonogram lawsuit in the courts have recently failed, anti-choice activists likely are trying to strike while the unwanted-mandatory-probing of women is hot.
Over at RH Reality Check, writer Andy Kopsa accurately terms the bills "state-sanctioned rape," since they force an unwanted object into the body of a woman even if she won't consent to the procedure. Kopsa asked the Virginia AG if the bill overturns the state's anti-rape statute, but has yet to receive a response. Arguably it's the State who fills the role of the rapist, since many doctors themselves do not want to perform the unnecessary procedure. The Virginia law has already passed the lower chamber and is headed for the Republican-controlled Senate, where it is also likely to pass. Kopsa reports that thankfully the Iowa State Senate is Democratic, and will likely kill the Iowa version of the bill, along with other anti-choice and anti-woman legislation up for consideration.
Meanwhile, as we previously reported here at BOR, Federal Judge Sam Sparks dismissed the lawsuit against the State's sonogram law, primarily due to a pending reversal from the 5th Circuit Court, where the rabidly anti-abortion Chief Judge Edith Jones already overturned Sparks' temporary restraining order blocking enforcement of the sonogram law. Sparks essentially said that while he could still side against the sonogram law on constitutional grounds, there was little hope of the plaintiffs prevailing when the State appealed. It goes without saying that conservative, anti-choice judges on our Circuit Courts appointed by Republican presidents are just waiting to uphold these mandatory sonogram laws.
The irony is that sonogram laws have not been proven to actually reduce the rate of abortion. The main challenges they present are economic and procedural. The 24-hour waiting period associated with the sonogram can cause logistical hurdles for women that must travel long distances or take days off from work in order to get to an abortion provider. In Texas, if women travel over 100 miles to get an abortion they can waive the 24 hour waiting period, but must still wait 2 hours, I suppose to "think it over." Most infuriatingly, women also must pony up the extra money for a sonogram they don't want and don't even have to look at once it's done. Abortions are already expensive, especially for low-income women. This just makes the financial hurdle even bigger.
At its core, the sonogram law is about embarrassing and shaming women for exercising their right to choose. It's about humiliating women and forcing them to submit to an unwanted vaginal probing before going through with a medical procedure that they've already thought about a great deal. These laws are fixated on making women feel bad about their choice, and allowing the state to literally and physically violate them for exercising their rights.
Republicans will never stop their insane intrusions into women's personal lives or women's bodies. Now they're trying to allow employers to restrict their employees' access to birth control on "moral grounds." Where does it end? The Republicans have literally forced their way into the vaginas of women in Texas via their mandatory sonograms, and soon those of women in Virginia as well. Even as their efforts to block birth control coverage, mandate sonograms, and chip away at every reproductive freedom women enjoy cause them to nose-dive in the polls, it seems that they just won't stop. Women literally have no business voting for candidates from the Republican party -- their sole priority seems to be taking away our reproductive rights and basic access to birth control.
The only way to keep Republicans out of our lady-business is to keep them out of office.
More on the Texas Sonogram Law on Burnt Orange Report:
This marks the first week that the infamous Texas sonogram law was enforced. (It's been in effect at many clinics since the law was passed in October, but now there are some teeth behind it.) And not surprisingly, it a) hasn't changed any women's minds, b) is a major hassle for women already making a difficult decision, and c) is a hassle for doctors and clinics.
The law doesn't just require that women get a sonogram before getting an abortion. They also have to listen to the doctor describe the fetus' features and listen to its heartbeat. From a logistical perspective, this means women have to schedule two appointments - one for the sonogram, followed by one at least 24 hours later to actually terminate the pregnancy. So it's twice the sick leave, twice the child care, twice the transportation. You can read more about what exactly is involved, as well as the long and torrid legal history, here.
The director of Texas Right to Life claims in a very Orwellian twist that the sonogram law actually empowers women, and that we need to stop "underestimating the capability of women to make a decision with more information, not less." Indeed, she says, keeping this information from them is paternalistic. Except even these newly "empowered" women are making the same decisions that they had made before they were forced to endure the sonograms. According to the New York Times:
"Clinic directors said they have not had a single woman change her mind in the 24-hour period between her sonogram and her abortion. Abortion opponents and advocates for crisis pregnancy centers say that anecdotally, they have not heard of any either."
So it turns out that women tend to know what they're doing when they make major decisions about their health and families. Harassment doesn't really change it. Even the anti-choice groups haven't been able to rustle up any cases that indicate otherwise.
But unfortunately, the legal battle has been put to rest for now. Today the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals denied a request to reconsider the suit, so it looks like it's not going anywhere.
Maybe we should take a page from the book of a State Senator in Virginia who, in response to their own proposed sonogram law, introduced an amendment that "would require men to have a rectal exam and a cardiac stress test before obtaining a prescription for erectile dysfunction medication."
More on the Texas Sonogram Law on Burnt Orange Report:
Thanks to a ruling from the 5th Circuit and a request from Greg Abbot to expedite enforcement, Texas' wildly invasive sonogram law is going into effect. Women seeking abortions will be subject to a mandatory ultrasound and forced to look at the sonogram image, and their doctor will be required to read a bunch of medically unnecessary information about fetal development or risk losing their medical license. For women who are less than 10 weeks pregnant, that sonogram will be conducted with a trans-vaginal probe, seen at right.
The law took effect sooner than anticipated, since Attorney General Greg Abbott got permission for immediate enforcement after 5th Circuit Judge Edith Jones struck down Federal Judge Sam Sparks' temporary restraining order on the law. Usually there's a three-week waiting period before laws are enforced. Now the Department of Health Services is writing rules for enforcement of the new law.
Here's a run-down of what happened in the litigation and where anti-probers can go from here.
June 13, 2011: The initial lawsuit against the sonogram bill is filed in federal court, with plaintiffs seeking to prevent the law from going into effect on September 1, 2011. The lawsuit seeks a judgment that the mandatory sonogram law is unconstitutional and unenforceable in whole and/or in part.
August 30, 2011: Judge Sam Sparks issues a temporary restraining order, or TRO, blocking enforcement. Specifically, Sparks' ruling prohibits any enforcement of the provisions requiring the display of the ultrasound, the detailed description of the fetal image, and the audible heart auscultation of the fetus.
January 5, 2012: AG Greg Abbott appeals Sparks' injunction at the 5th Circuit court. The anti-sonogram side continued to argue that the sonograms and compelled speech by the doctors are not medically necessary, and that the State of Texas was trying to insert ideological speech into the doctor-patient relationship.
January 10, 2012: Chief Judge Edith Jones, noted anti-abortion zealot, reversed Spark's TRO and stated that there's precedent for the new Texas law. That gave pause to opponents of the law, since any appeal of Sparks' final decision would have to go back through the 5th Circuit.
January 13, 2012: Abbott gets permission to enforce the sonogram law immediately, rather than wait the usual 3 weeks for the provision to take effect. The 5th Circuit granted his request, thus denying the anti-sonogram side the opportunity to appeal Jones' decision to reverse Sparks' injunction. The Texas Department of State Health Services was instructed to issue rules for compliance with the law, as well as prosecute doctors who do not obey it.
January 20, 2012: At a hearing on the initial lawsuit, Judge Sparks says his "hands are tied" by the 5th Circuit's reversal of his original TRO. Essentially, if Sparks rules for the plaintiffs, Jones is likely to reverse him when the State appeals his decision.
Now What? The best chance for opponents of the invasive sonogram law is for Sparks to rule against the law on constitutional grounds, and then have the ensuing appeal by the state take place en banc, or to the entire 5th Circuit, not just a three-judge panel including the dreaded anti-choice Judge Jones. A majority of the 17 judges on the 5th Circuit would have to agree to rehear it, and then could potentially reverse Judge Jones. Not all 17 would have to hear the case. Or at least that's my understanding. Other Circuit courts have ruled against similar laws, so there's a solid chance that a wider group of judges ruling on our sonogram law at the 5th Circuit might produce a different outcome.
Conceivably if Sparks does rule, and then the losing side appeals to the 5th Circuit, the losing side there can appeal to the Supreme Court. It's not clear however if the SCOTUS would take up the case, and given the current ideological swing of the court to the right thanks to George W. Bush's appointments, how the anti-sonogram side would fare.
So that's where we are. We'll keep you updated on this issue as it continues.
Yesterday, the 5th Circuit court overturned US District Judge Sam Sparks' decision to block enforcement of Texas' insane and invasive mandatory sonogram law while he conducted the trial over its constitutionality. Here's some of the more pertinent information we've learned and read overnight on this issue.
When does the law take effect?
The 5th Circuit ruled that the law can be enforced as of January 31. Doctors who do not comply with the law risk losing their medical license. That's right--doctors who don't want to be an ideological stooge of Texas Republicans' anti-women agenda can lose their medical license if they refuse to provide unnecessary information to women seeking abortions.
What about the original trial?
Sparks has a summary judgment hearing scheduled for January 20. When he will make his ruling is unknown, though Sparks is expected to indicate when that ruling might occur on the 20th. The trial considers a wider range of issues than just whether the bill is indeed unconstitutional by denying doctors their free speech rights. If he rules that HB15, the Sonogram bill, is indeed no bueno before the date it is slated to be enforced, then it won't go into effect.
Can the State appeal?
Yes, and if they do, the case goes back to the 5th Circuit, where Chief Judge Edith Jones smacked down Sparks' temporary restraining order against the law. That's bad news, since arch conservative Jones seems to have a personal vendetta against Roe v. Wade. She has written in opinions that she hopes SCOTUS revisits Roe soon, stating that the Court "might conclude that the woman's 'choice' is far more risky and less beneficial."
Wow, that's nuts. Who is this this Edith person, anyways?
Glad you asked! Chief Judge Edith Jones was appointed by Reagan to the 5th Circuit in 1985. Prior to that, Jones was General Counsel for the Republican Party of Texas, as well as a lawyer in private practice in Houston. She has been described as the "Susan Lucci" of SCOTUS nominations. Her name is always bandied about by conservative activists and Presidential administrations when a vacancy opens up, but she never gets the nod. Republicans from Reagan to Bush I to Bush II have floated her name, but the far-right ideologue never gets to the point of an upperdown in the Senate, let alone the robes and frilly white collar of the highest court in the land. However, as this case shows, that doesn't prevent her from trying to chip away at Roe.
Jones is the Chief Judge of the United States Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit, which hears cases from Lousiana, Mississippi, and Texas. The 5th Circuit considered to be the most conservative federal appeals court in the country. Per Think Progress, this is the court that sanctioned a cheerleader for suing her school district after she was forced to cheer for her rapist. On the court, Jones has written a variety of heinous anti-woman dissents. One denied overt claims of sexual harassment, suggesting that a woman needed to be raped to claim actual harassment. In another, she told a molestation victim that there is no benefit in recognizing "a constitutional right not to have her bodily integrity compromised by a teacher's sexual abuse." Want more? Read this run-down of her visit to Harvard Law's Federalist Society posted on conservative blog Red State.
It is worth reminding everyone that virulently anti-women justices like this get appointed by Republican administrations. You like choice? You like women making their own medical decisions? You want to avoid going back to the days of back-alley abortions and septic wards? If you have women in your lives who you think actually have the right to choose for themselves, you probably want to vote for a Democrat. There's just no room in the other party for pro-choice Republicans. Heck, even Mitt Romney isn't pro-choice anymore.
What's the deal with Edith Jones? Does she, like, hate women or something?
Well, she certainly has some patronizing attitudes towards our ability to decide what we do with our own bodies. Patrick Michels over at the Texas Observer writes as follows:
Jones follows the same logic that drove Perry, Patrick, and the law's House author, Rep. Sid Miller: A woman going in for an abortion doesn't really know what she wants. During the session, Patrick said the bill "empowers" women.
Jones also points out that it's important to mandate that the sonogram's performed, precisely because the woman might change her mind.
OMG you gals! We are really incapable of making important choices. It's amazing we're even allowed to vote, own property, and take out credit cards in our names. Next thing you know we'll be running for office! Clutch those pearls.
It just floors me, absolutely floors me, when women adopt this patronizing misogyny. Hey Edith, I am sure there are plenty of menfolk out there who didn't want you appointed to the 5th Circuit bench for life because the monthly fluctuations of your womb might cause you to rule erratically on matters of utmost importance. You know, Edith, you were the first female partner at Andrews Kurth, a major law firm in Texas. I bet a few of those good old boys didn't want you sharing in the firm profits, since obviously by your own logic women aren't fit to make major decisions.
Women like Edith Jones are tools of the patriarchy, appointed by men to promote an anti-woman agenda so that those same men can say "See? Even this woman agrees that women are incapable of exercising their rights." I bet she and Dan Patrick get along really well. Hey Edith, what should I have for lunch today? I'm not fit to decide what to do with my own body.
Did you have any other points you wanted to make about Circuit Court judges?
Actually, I did! Washington Monthly has a must-read article in their current issue about how Conservatives have almost completely taken over the American judiciary. If a Republican is elected in 2012, the transformation will be complete, as Justices Ginsberg and Kennedy could both retire or need to be replaced in the next four years.
But what's happening on the Circuit Court level is just as important. From the Washington Monthly article, emphasis mine:
But it's not just the Supreme Court that would tilt further right. The high court only hears seventy-some cases each year. The vast majority of disputes are resolved by the federal appellate courts, which are the last stop for almost every federal litigant in the country. And the one legacy of which George W. Bush can be most proud is his fundamental transformation of the lower federal judiciary-a change that happened almost completely undetected by the left. At a Federalist Society meeting in 2008, Bush boasted that he had seated more than a third of the federal judges expected to be serving when he left office, most of them younger and more conservative than their colleagues, all tenured for life and in control of the majority of the federal circuit courts of appeals. The consequences of that change at the appeals court level were as profound as they were unnoticed. As Charlie Savage of the New York Times put it at the time, the Bush judges "have been more likely than their colleagues to favor corporations over regulators and people alleging discrimination, and to favor government over people who claim rights violations. They have also been more likely to throw out cases on technical grounds, like rejecting plaintiffs' standing to sue." In short, they have copied and amplified the larger trends at the Roberts Court: a jurisprudence that skews pro-business, pro-life, anti-environment, and toward entangling the church with the state. Under the rhetorical banners of "modesty" and "humility" and "strict construction," the rightward shift has done more to restore a pre-New Deal legal landscape than any legislative or policy change might have done.
Obama hasn't been able to fill most of the vacancies in Circuit Courts because Republicans have used every trick in the book to block nominees from coming up to a vote. Several qualified applicants have even withdrawn from the process. Meanwhile, litigants are waiting years for their cases to be heard. Go read the rest here. Yowza.
Wow. this is all really bringing me down. Thanks a lot.
Too many women--and men who have sex with women--think that the right to a legal abortion is totally safe. Ladies and gents, think again. Women, Republicans are trying to literally shove a wand into your body without your consent, and force you to listen to a bunch of medically unnecessary claptrap while your feet are in the stirrups. They don't think you're fit to make your own decisions about your body. Your rights are under assault--and not just your ability to get an abortion, but also your ability to get birth control, emergency contraception. Republicans are even trying to make it so that insurance doesn't have to pay for all or part of any of these procedures and medical services.
There are a few good ways to stop this assault on womens' basic reproductive rights.
Support the pro-choice organization of your choosing. (Get it? Choosing?) Here in Texas, NARAL, Planned Parenthood, and Lilith Fund all do amazing work to help women exercise their right to choose. Give your time or your funds. Disclaimer: I am on the board of NARAL-TX and donate vigorously to all three organizations.
Don't vote for anti-choice zealots--the vast majority whom are Republicans, but there are certainly a few stinkers in the Democratic party too--who want to take away women's rights. Instead, support candidates who run against these anti-choicers.
Tell your friends. Share this post and the other stories about the sonogram lawsuit. Tell your friends, whether they're women or men who have sex with women or people who care about female human beings in general.
Look, I don't meant to be hyperbolic, but abortion rights are under attack. 24 states enacted 92 abortion restrictions in 2011. From sonograms to waiting periods to insurance denials, Republican legislatures are working hard to make sure a woman can't actually get an abortion, or be able to pay for it. Republicans are doing everything they can to erect procedural barriers to a woman actually getting the abortion she has chosen.
It is pretty scary stuff, and will have the most drastically negative impact on women who are lower income, younger, in abusive relationships, or otherwise disadvantaged. But as these restrictions keep getting more and more, well, restrictive, even wealthy SMU sorority girls will start to feel their rights getting clamped down on. Maybe then we'll finally see some bipartisan outrage on this issue.
Now I'm just more depressed. Hey, can you show me that bitterly ironic graphic of the sonogram procedure mandated by the law?
State Representative Carol Alvarado released the following statement just now on the 5th Circuit's decision that lets Texas enforce its crazy anti-woman sonogram law:
State Representative Carol Alvarado Statement on 5th Circuit Court's Decision on Sonogram Bill Enforcement
"The 5th Circuit Court's decision demeans nearly 40 years of progress by joining the Texas Legislature in telling women they are not smart enough to make the big decisions about their lives and their bodies.
The intent of this law, as described by the authors of the legislation themselves, is to reduce the occurrence of a legal medical procedure. To accomplish their politically-motivated goals, this bill forces doctors to serve as the mouthpiece of conservative politicians who want to coerce women into doubting themselves after they have made the most difficult decision of their lives."
State Representative Carol Alvarado is in her second term in the Texas House of Representatives, where she serves on the Public Health Committee.
You may recall Alvarado brandishing a trans-vaginal ultrasound probe on the floor of the Legislature last session. Alvarado explained in graphic detail how the procedure works. Trans-vaginal sonograms are the only way to perform a sonogram on a woman who is less than eight to 10 weeks pregnant. Many women seeking abortions will fall into this category.
As Alvarado said at the time, "This is not the jelly on the belly that most of you think," she said as she held up a vaginal probe. "This is government intrusion at its best."
Republicans sure talk a good game about opposing "governmental intrusion" into our private lives. 'Government should stop at our doorstep! they cry. Unless it's the doorstep of a woman, I suppose. Do Republicans seriously want their wives, sisters, and daughters to undergo this invasive procedure, should they chose to terminate a pregnancy? (Because if you think nice Conservative white ladies don't have abortions, I have some oceanfront property in Arizona to sell you.)
But hey, at least Republicans are doing everything they can to provide for the children who are the by-products of their policies of forced birth, right? They're funding schools, hiring teachers, expanding healthcare options? Right? Right?
The answer, quite obviously, is no. It's bitterly ironic that the Republican Party cares so much about preventing abortion, but does so little to provide for wanted children once they're born. While this law may still be struck down in the ongoing trial, in the meantime this decision by the 5th Circuit is terrible news for Texas women and the doctors they trust.
Here's some bad news for Texas women: a federal appeals court overturned Judge Sam Sparks' decision to temporarily block the Texas sonogram law from going into effect while the trial over its legality occurs.
The federal appeals court in New Orleans says Texas can enforce an abortion law passed last year while opponents challenge it in court.
A three-judge panel of the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals on Tuesday overturned a district judge's temporary order against enforcing the law. The measure requires that doctors who perform abortions show sonograms to patients, describe the images and describe the fetal heartbeat.
The panel says U.S. District Judge Sam Sparks in Austin was incorrect to rule that doctors had a substantial chance to win their case.
So that's some bad news for Texas women and Texas doctors right there. The federal court is basically saying that doctors' free speech concerns in this regard don't matter. Through this bill, the Legislature is forcing doctors to say things that aren't medically necessary and thus turning doctors into ideological agents of the state's anti-woman agenda.
Sparks' injunction blocked the worst parts of the bill: enforcement of provisions requiring the display of the ultrasound, detailed description of the fetus, and intrusive disclosure requirements for women who were already victims of violent crimes. He did so under the assumption that the plaintiffs had a reasonable chance of winning their case. The 5th Circuit in turn said that Sparks had no right to assume that the plaintiffs would win against the State. The federal court linked the bogus sonogram law with other legislation requiring doctors to give "truthful, nonmisleading and relevant" information. You can read the 5th Circuit's order here (warning, opens PDF.) In the decision, Chief Judge Edith H. Jones wrote:
"'Relevant' informed consent may entail not only the physical and psychological risks to the expectant mother facing this 'difficult moral decision,' but also the state's legitimate interests in 'protecting the potential life within her.'"
So basically, the concern of anti-choice zealots in the Legislature over what a woman does with her own personal uterus is a good enough reason to force doctors to say and do things to their patients that the doctors don't find medically necessary or helpful. It's troubling reasoning.
By the way, is the Legislature going to pass something similar for men seeking vasectomies? I mean, the procedure consigns the little swimmers to a short, brutish existence in the newly truncated vas deferens. They won't ever have the chance to impregnate a woman or defile a sock! The horror, the horror! Someone, please think of the sperms!
Remember, we're not talking about the jelly-on-the-belly kind of sonogram. We're talking about an intrusive, transvaginal sonogram with a probe, per the slightly altered medical textbook illustration below:
By the by, apparently this graphic ruffled a few feathers amongst the anti-choice haterz, who had it pulled down from Imageshack. You can now download it here.
No word yet on how soon the sonogram law takes effect, or how it will be enforced. Remember, if doctors refuse to show the sonogram and do as this law entails, they could lose their license. The consequences of Texas Republicans' anti-woman agenda is dire.
Let's hope the plaintiffs prevail in their lawsuit seeking to block this law for good.
Perhaps the most appalling revelation during yesterday's hearing on HB-15, the House version of the Sonogram Bill, was that bill author Rep. Sid Miller, R-Every Woman's Uterus, didn't realize exactly what kind of highly intrusive procedure he was mandating for the women of Texas. This came to light during debate, when Rep. Carol Alvarado detailed the procedure Miller wants to force on Texas women.
When offering her amendment, Alvarado gave an in-depth description of a trans-vaginal sonogram, which she said is the only way to perform a sonogram on women who are less than eight to 10 weeks pregnant.
"This is not the jelly on the belly that most of you think," she said as she held up a vaginal probe. "This is government intrusion at its best."
From the Masonic Cancer Center at the University of Minnesota, here's an illustration from a medical instructional text on how to use the vaginal probe. I have, ahem, modified it somewhat.
Women who are victims of rape or incest are not excluded from HB 15 as currently written. It is appalling, shocking, and repulsive that Miller's bill would force victims of sexual assault to be violated all over again, should they become pregnant from their attack, by forcing doctors to force that ultrasound wand into their patients.
Hey Sid: if you're going to require all women seeking an abortion to view a sonogram, and you don't even know that for women it's an extremely intrusive, transvaginal ultrasound, maybe you shouldn't be writing laws telling women what to do with their bodies?
And if anyone's uncomfortable with this image, how comfortable are you with a state that forces a doctor to do this to our women? And how comfortable are the Texas women with their feet in the stirrups going to be?