Over the last few weeks, an intense controversy has raged in Virginia, where Republicans have introduced a bill that requires -- among other things -- that women undergo an ultrasound prior to getting an abortion. The pro-abortion lobby has hysterically opposed the legislation (does their opposition ever take any other form?), going so far as to compare it to forcible rape. Their point, to be charitable, is based on the fact that one form of ultrasound involves a more invasive probe than the over-the-abdomen method many people associate with the practice. The usual crowd of media dupes have carried water for the extremists, parroting various interations of the "mandatory ultrasounds = rape" talking point. The problem? It's thoroughly bogus. Commentary's Alana Goodman has emerged as a one-woman debunking machine:
The complaints are the ultrasounds are needlessly invasive, not medically necessary, and would be forced on women seeking abortions, even if they don’t want them. This criticism misses one crucial point: Planned Parenthood policy already requires ultrasounds before abortion procedures. “That’s just the medical standard,” said Adrienne Schreiber, an official at Planned Parenthood’s Washington, D.C., regional office. “To confirm the gestational age of the pregnancy, before any procedure is done, you do an ultrasound.”
According to Schreiber, Planned Parenthood does require women to give signed consent for abortion procedures, including the ultrasound. But if the women won’t consent to the ultrasound, the abortion cannot take place, according to the group’s national standards. “...If she’s uncomfortable with a transvaginal ultrasound, then she’s not going to be comfortable with an equally invasive abortion procedure,” Schreiber told me.
So the outrageously invasive rape-like affront to "women's rights" is actually Planned Parenthood's standard medical practice. Subsequent reporting has established that the nation's largest abortion provider already requires ultrasounds for 99 percent of the abortions it performs. Therefore, according to the Virginia law's shrillest critics, Planned Parenthood routinely "rapes" women. Ms. Schreiber's quote above also begs the question: If an ultrasound is tantamount to rape, how might these people describe the surgical abortion itself? It's an absurd argument that bears no resemblence to medical reality. So if the loaded invocations of "rape" don't apply, why are they being made? What changes to current practice does the Virginia bill seek to accomplish? Based on my reading, I see three significant changes:
(1) The law would codify widely-accepted medical procedures and require abortion providers to obtain the woman's informed consent (the definition of which entails several common-sense elements -- see Section C) prior to performing an abortion.
(2) It would mandate that after the ultrasound or sonogram, a copy of the image of the unborn child be included in the patient's medical file, and require the doctor to offer to review the file with the woman.
(3) Abortion providers would be obligated to observe a 24-hour waiting period between the informed consent phase of the process and the abortion procedure.
All three of the items above provide women with important information about their choice (which some abortion providers have a history of withholding), and a reasonable period of time to think it through, based on said information. Abortion supporters like to call themselves "pro-choice," and sometimes the label fits. The repulsive truth, however, is that hardcore "pro-choice" activists are really pro-abortion. If a woman sees a photograph of the child whose heartbeat she is considering snuffing out, she might reconsider her choice -- especially if she's given one day to process the gravity of the her decision. Pro-abortion extremists are threatened by this possibility, so they scream "rape," lie, obfuscate, and accuse their opponents of extremism. Unfortunately, their theatrics are often effective. In this case, they prompted Virginia Governor Bob McDonnell to request changes to the legislative language. That hardly represents a defeat, but it shows that a relentless campaign of misinformation can force even well-intentioned politicians to abandon reason and make meaningless concessions based on narrative, not science or facts.
Guy Benson is Townhall.com's Political Editor. Follow him on Twitter @guypbenson. He is co-authors with Mary Katharine Ham for their new book End of Discussion: How the Left's Outrage Industry Shuts Down Debate, Manipulates Voters, and Makes America Less Free (and Fun).
Author Photo credit: Jensen Sutta Photography