Megan Carpentier has had a transvaginal ultrasound, as have a few friends of mine who have described it as a procedure that is extremely uncomfortable at best to outright painful at worst, and she tells the story of what it was like. For the men who pass bills requiring it, this is probably worth reading.
As you might be able to tell, it was vigorously uncomfortable — more than a typical pelvic exam, with which most women are very familiar. In part, it’s more uncomfortable because the technician has to press the wand directly against the areas she wants to get an image of — your uterus, Fallopian tubes and ovaries — so there’s more movement and more direct contact with pressure-sensitive areas of your body; you’re also not lying flat on your back to facilitate access to the upper reaches of your vagina; and you’re being penetrated with a longer, rigid object than is used in a regular pelvic exam. In my case, as the technician explained after, my uterus is “high,” or tilted toward my abdomen, so she had to tilt the wand accordingly — and because it was so uncomfortable, she halted the exam before fully exploring my Fallopian tubes or ovaries. If I had been pregnant (which I knew I was not), the exam might have lasted longer as she looked to rule out an ectopic pregnancy and locate the miniscule gestational sac.It was not, however, like being raped, despite all the furor-generating headlines and “Doonesbury” cartoons that were printed. It was uncomfortable to the point of being painful, emotionally triggering (and undoubtedly is moreso for victims of rape or incest or any woman in the midst of an already-emotional experience) and something that no government should force its citizens to undergo to make a political point. But it wasn’t like being raped — and using language like that not only minimizes rape for its survivors but makes them and other women more frightened of the procedure, which has significant and important medical uses.
I think this misses the point, however. No one is arguing that a transvaginal ultrasound IS a rape, or is as painful and traumatic as one. But it is legally the same thing because someone is forcing something into a woman’s vagina against her will. It is the lack of consent that makes it tantamount to rape, not the actual physical or emotional pain that might accompany it. Forcing a medically unnecessary ultrasound insertion on a woman against her consent is no different, legally, than forcing a broom handle or a penis into her.