John Scalzi Lends Blog To Doctor’s Guest Post On Texas’ Transvaginal Ultrasounds

I’m certain you would have read about this on a number of news sites by now (“Newspapers Pull Doonesbury Strip“, or  “Doonesbury on Ultrasound as ‘Rape’” or even “Doonesbury ultrasound ‘rape’ cartoon series stirs controversy; newspapers spike“). Here is a link to some of the cartoons in question.

Back on March 11th on Gawker, for example:

Political comic strip Doonesbury will debut an abortion storyline next week, with a particular focus on the Texas law requiring pregnant women to receive a transvaginal ultrasound and then wait 24 hours before having an abortion.

Some papers will opt not to run the strip due to its explicit and controversial content. The storyline involves a woman going in for an abortion and being sent to the “shaming room” where she’s asked, “Do your parents know you’re a slut?” Once there, the woman endures a transvaginal ultrasound, with the doctor saying, “By the authority invested in me by the GOP base, I thee rape.”

Legal Satire?: Doonesbury and “Transvaginal” Rape gives some further detail on what the law says:

The law mandates that a physician who is to perform an abortion must prior to the abortion perform a sonogram and display the image of the foetus, make audible the heart auscultation of the foetus for the woman to hear and explain the results of each procedure. A 24 hour waiting period must take place between the sonogram and abortion procedure. See Texas Medical Providers Performing Abortion Services v. Lakey, 667 F.3d 570 (5th Cir. 2012).

The implications of such a procedure in early first term abortions are that doctors must perform the sonogram vaginally with the use of a ten-inch sonogram “wand“.

What’s been missing from the online conversations I’ve read? The views of the physicians themselves… until now. From John Scalzi’s blog:

Fellow physicians, once again we are being used as tools to screw people over. This time, it’s the politicians who want to use us to implement their morally reprehensible legislation. They want to use our ultrasound machines to invade women’s bodies, and they want our hands to be at the controls. Coerced and invaded women, you have a problem with that? Blame us evil doctors. We are such deliciously silent scapegoats.

It is our responsibility, as always, to protect our patients from things that would harm them. Therefore, as physicians, it is our duty to refuse to perform a medical procedure that is not medically indicated. Any medical procedure. Whatever the pseudo-justification.

It’s time for a little old-fashioned civil disobedience.

Here are a few steps we can take as physicians to protect our patients from legislation such as this.

Read the whole thing at Guest Post: A Doctor on Transvaginal Ultrasounds.

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About Kylie Sturgess

Kylie Sturgess is a Philosophy teacher, media and psychology student, blogger at Patheos and podcaster at Token Skeptic. She has conducted over a hundred interviews including artists, scientists, politicians and activists, worldwide.
She’s the author of the ‘Curiouser and Curiouser‘ column at the Committee for Skeptical Inquiry website and travels internationally lecturing on feminism, skepticism, and science.

  • Aliasalpha

    Its a good list of suggestions he/she presents but I do think the question of “where was the doctor’s outrage” is the most important

    • Pteryxx

      Doctors who provide abortions are getting pressured and harassed too, and not incidentally sometimes get shot and killed. Some of the forced ultrasound laws require the mandatory, unnecessary ultrasound to be done by the abortion provider, thus forcing the most sympathetic physicians to traumatize their own patients. There are also laws designed specifically to intimidate doctors, such as the new Tennessee law under consideration, which would mandate all abortion providers be local and have their names published online by the health department.

      There needs to be a massive enough outcry by doctors in general, not just abortion providers who have to risk their careers and lives.

    • lordshipmayhem

      Medical associations are traditionally reluctant to enter the political fray, preferring to remain neutral between the various political parties.

      However, whenever any legislation is proposed to mandate doctors to perform a medical procedure or treatment regardless of whether the physician in question believes it to be medically necessary, or worse yet contraindicated, the medical associations have a duty to advise the legislators that it will instruct the doctors to ignore the law, as (1) the legislators are in effect practising medicine without a license, and (2) to obey the law would be to break the Hippocratic oath, specifically that part that says, “First, do no harm”.

      Everyone, please pressure your family physician, your OB/GYN, and whatever other specialist you use, to put pressure on his or her state and national organizations to make a stand against this. Ask these medical associations, nay demand them, publish a policy that any law mandating a procedure or treatment is not to be followed, and instead the best interests of the patient are to be followed instead.

      What other medical procedures will lawyers and other non-doctors mandate physicians perform next? Organ transplants from unwilling donors?

  • Eric RoM

    Why is the Scalzi link the ONE thing Facebook won’t let me post?


    • Kylie Sturgess

      ? I’m not sure.