Worthwhile Reads: A doctor urges civil disobedience

A doctor expresses his outrage over transvaginal ultrasound bills and other recent anti-abortion legislation from his perspective as a physician and urges his fellow doctors to respond to these laws by not complying.

I do not feel that it is reactionary or even inaccurate to describe an unwanted, non-indicated transvaginal ultrasound as “rape”. If I insert ANY object into ANY orifice without informed consent, it is rape. And coercion of any kind negates consent, informed or otherwise.

In all of the discussion and all of the outrage and all of the Doonesbury comics, I find it interesting that we physicians are relatively silent.

After all, it’s our hands that will supposedly be used to insert medical equipment (tools of HEALING, for the sake of all that is good and holy) into the vaginas of coerced women.

Worthwhile Reads: Rape Roundup
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About Libby Anne

Libby Anne grew up in a large evangelical homeschool family highly involved in the Christian Right. College turned her world upside down, and she is today an atheist, a feminist, and a progressive. She blogs about leaving religion, her experience with the Christian Patriarchy and Quiverfull movements, the detrimental effects of the "purity culture," the contradictions of conservative politics, and the importance of feminism.

  • lordshipmayhem

    I’ve been wondering why the doctors’ organizations have been silent. I’ve chalked it up to the OMA’s historical reticence to get involved with politics.

    When a procedure or treatment is mandated by legislation without the doctor’s being permitted to determine whether it is medically necessary, or to the contrary when a procedure or treatment is forbidden by legislation without the doctor’s being permitted to determine whether it is medically necessary, then the law is in error and the doctor should ignore it. If the doctor is charged with disobeying the law, his defence should be that the legislators are practising medicine without a licence and he is using his best judgment based on his long years of training and experience to determine the best course of action for his patient.

    But long before it reaches that stage, when such legislation is proposed but not yet passed, the local (state, provincial, if necessary national) medical organizations should take up the cudgel on behalf of the doctors they represent. They should point out these uncomfortable facts to the legislators that mandating unnecessary procedures will not be countenanced, as it would place the doctor in violation of his Hippocratic oath, which states, “First, do no harm”.

    The voice of the state medical associations has for too long been silent on this issue. Pressure your family physician, your OB/GYN, to have his/her medical associations issue policy positions on mandated,medically unnecessary (or even contraindicated) procedures designed for the sole purpose of persuading women from going through with another medical procedure that might itself be medically necessary for the continued survival of the patient.

  • Kevin Alexander

    Doctors already refuse to kill people by lethal injection so the state must train amateurs to do that and there’s no lack of volunteers.
    I guess that the next step for Texas is to set up rape loving concern for babies centers staffed by volunteers. I’m sure that there’ll be no difficulty finding them.

    • http://mamamara.wordpress.com Mara

      I feel sure you’re right. Why, it’ll create jobs for all those wanna-be rapists and sex offenders. How lovely. ::eyeroll::

      And here we thought the GOP didn’t have a job-creation plan.

    • Pteryxx

      It’s not a “next step” in Texas – the forced ultrasound bill directs patients to anti-abortion Crisis Pregnancy Centers, which have been getting funds for ultrasound equipment.

      Founded in 1993, the National Institute of Family and Life Advocates was the first CPC network to promote ultrasounds in crisis pregnancy centers; ultrasounds were seen as a new, persuasive tool to talk women out of abortions. Additionally, centers that offered ultrasound services could now be considered medical centers, giving CPCs more legitimacy. Then, in 2004, Focus on the Family started the Option Ultrasound Program, which – in tandem with a medical consultant from NIFLA – provides funding grants to pregnancy centers to obtain ultrasound machines and convert their centers to medical-style clinics.


  • http://kagerato.net/ kagerato

    It would be just and proper if many doctors were to demonstrate that kind of moral courage. However, the nature of the world we live in doesn’t make me hopeful. I don’t see a lot of professionals risking their careers over this, sadly.

    Looking at it more optimistically, one would hope we can do something about these terrible laws themselves. They may have come from the top down, but that doesn’t mean they can’t be eliminated from the bottom up.

  • Ursula L

    It’s an interesting idea, but one with some flaws.

    For one thing, the main danger of doctors loosing their licenses over this isn’t primarily the livelihood of the individual doctors. Rather, it is that each doctor who is caught is one doctor fewer who will be able and willing to actually perform abortions. That’s playing into the hands of the anti-abortion crowd, giving them the weapons to put these doctors out of business.

    Secondly, the doctor can’t perform this civil disobedience on his or her own. Each incident would involve a patient. A patient who would be getting much-needed treatment in a way that violates the law. If the doctor were to be discovered, and investigated, the patient’s medical history would become fodder for the legal system. Her medical history examined by police and prosecutors. She might be forced to testify against her doctor. She might suffer greatly, as the people around her learned that she had an abortion. So, morally, a doctor can’t perform this civil disobedience as a way of protecting the most vulnerable patients, because they’d be least likely to be able to withstand the scrutiny that might follow. It would have to be limited to patients who are also activists, who know the law, and consent to having their private medical experience made into an act of civil disobedience, knowing all the risk that entails.

    Finally, as a tool for social change, civil disobedience is not a matter of secretly breaking the law, hoping you’ll get away with it. (That can be valuable, socially, as with the many qualified doctors pre-Roe who risked everything to provide women with safe abortions.) Civil disobedience is about publicity. You do it to generate attention for your cause. You do it, often, courting arrest and prosecution, to try to generate test cases in the courts, to overturn the law. And you do it knowing that you could as easily wind up as Homer Plessy rather than Rosa Parks, that there is no guarantee of success or even personal safety.