Political suicide

Firstly a quick bit of housekeeping – blogging may be sporadic over the coming weeks and months because I am up to my eyes in other projects, starting with a talk at the University of Oxford’s Catholic Society, next week entitled “Catholicism and Feminism”. This post therefore will be mercifully brief.

On the subject of the Personhood Bill passed in Virginia, whilst whole-heartedly agreeing with the notion of personhood from the moment of conception, when it comes to the idea of a compulsory trans-vaginal ultrasound prior to an abortion, the answer has to be: NO, NO, NO!!

Has whoever dreamt up this scheme actually been subject to this procedure? I have had one or two in my time and it is a deeply distressing, invasive and humiliating procedure. It doesn’t matter how nicely the nurse holds your hand and comfortingly talks about where you are going on holiday, the procedure is still unpleasant and uncomfortable.

The medical grounds are spurious, I have been able to have an abdominal ultrasound that saw a sac at 5 weeks in pregnancy which is possible with a full bladder. By the time most women discover they are pregnant they are usually at least 5 weeks pregnant. Modern day detection kits may tell you earlier, but these tend to be the preserve of those hoping to conceive. Most who are attempting to prevent pregnancy won’t be testing 6 days before their cycle is due to start but tend to leave it a good week after a missed period, hoping that the delay is caused by stress or another factor. By this point, most women will be a good 4-5 weeks pregnant if not more. An abortion is an abortion, no better for the baby at whatever stage it is performed.

This kind of law buys into the silly polemic that one gets so sick and tired of hearing from the pro-choice lobby, such as “Stop poking around between my legs you vicious bigot”. It confirms every single negative prejudice held about those who wish to protect the lives of our unborn and speaking from an unashamedly pro-life perspective, it gives the impression that women who seek abortions must be punished. How does punishing women help to provide better pro-life solutions? A woman seeking an abortion may not be deterred but she will be resentful and humiliated. How does this treatment display care and compassion?

The state has no right to decide that a woman must undergo an invasive and medically unnecessary procedure. It damages the cause no end. A more sensible law would be that an abortion may not be performed until an abdominal ultrasound may be performed, which is normally possible at 5-6 weeks.

I suggest the following amendment as being the most appropriate if the legislators are adamant on committing pro-life suicide and retaining this barmy idea:

The partner of the woman presenting for abortion must be subjected to an anal probe in the name of equality. If the partner is unavailable then a representative of the legislature must make themselves available.

Horrendous idea. Utter madness. Not in my name.

Thank you well meaning GoPers. You can just see the foaming Guardian headlines over the forthcoming weeks. UK pro-lifers will be tarred with the same brush.

You know where you can stick that idea,

19 thoughts on “Political suicide

  1. I disagree,

    I have had three trans vaginal ultrasounds . Very simple examination. Not painful at all. At just six weeks I could clearly see our baby’s heart beating away. Sadly s/he did not make it to term (some simple early blood tests to test my progesterone/oestrogen increment levels might have saved her but did anyone in the NHS bother telling me?!)

    I am so grateful for the connection of that moment. Some medical practitioners recommend that women have the option to have one every year as a matter of course as cervical test tells us nothing about what may be going on north of the cervix.

    I had a friend tell me just this week that she had an ultrasound done (baby around six weeks) at her local abortion clinic – they turned the scan away from her. She feels very strongly that she would have rejected abortion had they just let her see her baby’s heartbeat.

    It is utter injustice to the unborn girl or boy to abort them in the first place.

    It is actively witholding information from a women not to counsel her in a context where she can actually link up with her own baby. Subconsciously or otherwise she will make that link later in life.

    1. The thing is though Trish many women, myself included, do find these examinations painful, traumatic and humiliating.

      I am all for consensual use of trans-vaginal ultrasound for reasons such as you state, but it is quite wrong of the state to impose this treatment on a woman.

      As I said, I had an abdominal ultrasound at 5 weeks in pregnancy. No heartbeat could be viewed at that stage, but the gestational sac could be viewed.

      Whilst it is wrong to deprive women about factual information with regards to the development of their pregnancy, it is equally wrong to impose an invasive diagnostic procedure. It shows no respect for a woman’s dignity and we must remember that we are not simply dealing with unborn children but women with feelings and needs. Pro-life work must be holistic, it must treat both parties as having equal importance. The dignity of the mother does not need to be compromised in this way.

      1. If a woman finds the thought of transvaginal test to be too distressing then there can be no way that she should be considered ready for the pain and trauma of abortion.

        A doctor will not give me antibiotics just because I say that I choose them. She will find out first if that is truly my health need.

        Abortion is “imposed” on all of us and paid for and promoted with public taxes.

  2. I completely agree with you Caroline. Grotesque invasion.

    As Ive asked on Bump Beyond when will this argument move beyond this sort of thing. So saying the most thoughtful responses to our situation in 2010 has to date been from pro life. Not one pro choicer could have given a shit about what we were made to suffer through in that abortion procedure or after it. So much for their caring attitude aswell.


    and yet they will sezie on this and wax lyrical on this one for politocal experidiency you can guarantee it. In fact they already

  3. The State is suggesting this only in the event that a woman wants to have her unborn child murdered. So, am I right in thinking that if you don’t want to murder your baby, you don’t have to have this procedure?

    1. Well indeed Laurence.

      Having clarified the situation it seems that the law will state that an ultrasound is necessary, a transvaginal probe is not necessary. The difficulty seems to be, that before 8 weeks, the internal probe is the gold standard in terms of the detail of the image and so America being what it is, this will be pushed to be the norm.

      Whilst I would whole-heartedly support laws on both sides of the Atlantic that make an ultrasound mandatory, having spoken with a Catholic doctor, the agreement seems to be that a woman must retain the right to refuse this type of examination, an abdominal one will suffice, even if it is of inferior quality.

      Though many people state that this type of examination is painless, experiences vary, I certainly found it very difficult, when I needed to have one just a few weeks previously, and that’s after having given birth to three children. Perhaps it is more psychological than physical, but I really feel that pro-lifers need to win hearts and minds, to take people with them and subjecting women who “may” be considering abortion to this type of probe, is likely to do more harm than good.

      If the point of this law is to make the woman aware of the actual physical development of her unborn child, then there are other, just as effective aids, which can bring this home to her. As I mentioned, I have seen the gestational sac at 5 weeks of development, my understanding is that no fetal pole is able to be seen via ultrasound until 6 weeks in pregnancy, and having been referred to the Early Pregnancy Unit in 3 pregnancies, I can verify to having seen a fetal heartbeat by abdominal scan at 6-7 weeks.

      Whilst we must fight for the unborn child’s right not to be killed, we must also ensure that the mother’s welfare is looked after at all times. What good does forcing a woman to undergo this procedure, actually do, particularly if she is set on an early stage abortion? It’s all tinkering about at the edges with rather unpleasant undertones. Either abortion should be legal or it should not.

      This issue does absolutely nothing to help the image of pro-lifers, and, with the greatest of respect, I think it is very difficult for men to understand the psychological impact of this procedure upon a woman, particularly if she has been previously raped or physically abused in any way.

      1. You, I believe, Caroline are quite slim? A “larger lady” would not get good pictures abdominally at 6-8 weeks gestation.

        Some women have hang-ups about smear tests too & choose not to have them, accepting the risk of undetected abnormalities leading to cancer of the cervix. This is an emotional, not rational response. Medical procedures, of any kind, must always be ultimately voluntary. “Gold standard” and “best practice” are mantras that medical professionals utter, patient choice must prevail.

  4. What is more important? That we carefully cultivate our ‘image’ or defend the unborn child and support the defense of the unborn child whenever the opportunity arises. Let’s face it, we don’t get that many opportunities to applaud the humanity of the unborn child being recognised by a State.

    1. If we harm our image then we do the unborn child no good whatsoever and move even further away from achieving our aims.

      I think it is possible to applaud the Personhood bill and recognition of the unborn, whilst at the same time disassociating ourselves from any mandatory use of vaginal ultrasounds.

      This isn’t simply about “image” it is about making sure that vulnerable pregnant women are not forcibly subjected to an internal vaginal inspection.

  5. But they’ve made it clear that they are going to kill their child, right?

    Given that they’ve decided that their unborn child has no right to life, thereby denying all grounds of human rights at all, do they not thereby forfeit their right not to be shown the evidence of that which is about to be killed, with their own consent?

    The State there clearly believes that they need to be shown the child because it believes the women are not acting in accordance with reason. They want to show women the truth about their developing babies because they recognise the humanity of the child.

    A little discomfort and humiliation is nothing next to being mutilated and killed, which is what will happen to the unborn child.

    1. Not necessarily.

      An ultrasound needs to be performed before the woman actually consents to the procedure. As I said, an internal scan is not necessary, an abdominal one will suffice and a hard case, such as a woman who has been raped, needs to be treated with compassion and sensitivity. In fact all women do, as do their unborn children.

      We have to make pro-life holistic and about showing respect and dignity for the women, AS WELL AS the unborn child. We cannot simply treat women as philosophical objects. What’s a bit of discomfort and humiliation is not as bad as what will happen to the unborn child, BUT this isn’t a competition. My point is that the discomfort and humiliation are totally unnecessary when an abdominal scan will suffice.

      Many women ARE sadly acting with reason. They know full well what they are doing, for example the middle-aged mother who already has several children.

      So we subject her to discomfort and humiliation, for seeking a procedure that is sadly legal, in order to punish her?

  6. Neither Our Lord or His Apostles were concerned by ‘image’. If they had been neither He, nor they, would have been crucified publicly – a torture designed explicitly to pour ice cold water on any new ‘movements’, whether they be well developed, or, indeed, ’embryonic’.

    The Apostles stood up for Justice, no matter what the cost to themselves and their ‘image’.

    1. Yes the Apostles did stand up for Justice no matter the cost to themselves and their image, but by their standing up for justice and truth as did all the martyrs, they bore witness, but did this bearing of witness include inflicting humiliation on other people? Did it involve endorsing unnecessary suffering upon others.

      The thing is with “image” in this instance, is that it saves lives. In today’s society, like it or not, politics is our only hope to get matters changed. That and influencing public opinion, effecting a sea change in order that abortion may be recognised for the horror that it is.

      We are not going to win hearts and minds which is what will effectively turn the tide and press for change, by appearing not to care about the needs of women, or thinking that their distress is secondary. On a philosophical level it might be, but the distress felt both by the women themselves and the perceptions of others will simply consolidate us as uncaring and brutal.

      We might know that is grossly untrue, but how on earth does it help us to be taken seriously or our arguments to be given any weight. It validates the misconception that abortion is about controlling a woman’s body. It could be taken as a physical manifestation of that sentiment.

      There are better ways at fighting abortion than attempting to deter and punish women with unnecessary intimate examinations.

    2. Off topic by some way, Laurence, but for future reference, crucifixion wasn’t designed as a punishment to stop new movements. Not by any stretch of the informed imagination.

      To the best our knowledge, it was a Carthaginian punishment to begin with, and was used to punish generals who were defeated in battle.

      The Romans adopted it and used to punish those who put themselves outside the law: rebellious slaves, rebellious subjects, bandits, pirates, and occasionally soldiers who deserted.

      In the case of Our Lord, he would have been regarded as a rebellious subject, challenging Roman authority by accepting the honorific of ‘King of the Jews’.

      1. I have to admit, in response to both of you, that I’m not wholly convinced about the line that the Apostles always stood up for justice, regardless of the cost.

        I don’t think we have the data to support such a claim; outside of Acts we have no historically credible data on the lives of the Apostles, with the exceptions of Peter and Paul (not one of the Twelve, but an Apostle in an important sense, for all that). Even those exceptions are very tentative: I think Clement’s Letter to the Corinthians is a good indication that they were both martyred, but other than that, we’re really just dependent on tales told long afterwards — tales that look like pious myth and are of minimal historical value.

        I’m even thinking hard about Acts; what evidence is there in Acts of the Apostles standing up for justice, in some kind of broad sense? Standing up for the truth of Our Lord, and for the reality of the Faith, certainly, but for justice? What injustice does Acts show them resisting?

        Persecution’s a possibility, of course, but it’s striking in that light that after Peter is freed from prison by an angel, he leaves Jerusalem. He doesn’t stay and stand his ground, presumably because he can do more good elsewhere.

        My point, really, is that we should be careful about claiming too much of our forefathers in the faith; they were impressive enough, without us ascribing to them actions for which there is no historical basis.

  7. Laurence

    Do I understand you to be saying that because a women is considering an abortion it is acceptable to require her to undergo a procedure that many women find uncomfortable and, when done in the context of duress, degrading? (I know you are not arguing that submitting to the procedure will make abortion less bad).

    Surely a pro-life position stems from respect for human dignity and compassion for both the mother and the child. Showing a lack of care for one betrays both.

    We have a job to do to persuade others what they instinctively know to be true – that destroying life in the womb is evil. In this struggle all sorts of smoke-screens will be thrown up to obscure the obvious truth. The argument Caroline is warning us about here is one of them. You are wrong to suggest she is making it in order that she might fit in with the modern world rather than (as is clearly the case) in order that the truth about abortion be more widely accepted.

  8. Can I just add to this debate by saying that all women in the UK are forced to undergo mandatory ultrasound before an abortion anyway. And pressured to have transvaginal ultrasound if that is what is needed to confirm that the pregnancy is in the womb. Bear that in mind when anti-lifers start shouting about this American bill. As you say Caroline,
    “the law will state that an ultrasound is necessary, a transvaginal(TV) probe is not necessary. The difficulty seems to be, that before 8 weeks, the internal probe is the gold standard in terms of the detail of the image and so America being what it is, this will be pushed to be the norm.”
    That happens on a daily basis in the NHS too (several times doctors have tried to bamboozle me into one of these scans like it or not). But the important point in this law is there is no compulsion to have an ultrasound transvaginally.
    Good Counsel has been getting some ultrasonographers trained recently for our centre, and I know that at 5 and even 6 weeks some pregnancies cannot be visualised on an abdominal scan. I understand Caroline’s worries of how the pro-life movement will be portrayed over this, but let’s do our best to get the word out that that’s NOT what is happening, there is a requirement to have the ultrasound not to have a TV ultrasound. It’s a great bill, they shouldn’t have held back from it because some anti-lifers will deliberately misrepresent it.
    I understand Laurence’s point too. It’s true that we must do everything we can to treat the woman with respect and dignity. But if a woman were going to a “clinic” to kill her 2 year old child and she was, say, forcibly restrained from doing it, in a way that was harmful to her dignity, I would say “OK let’s try to think of a more dignified way of dealing with this next time.” But until we had one, I suppose we would have to tolerate the undignified way. A woman’s dignity doesn’t outweigh her child’s life. The problem with abortion is that the law is so heavily against us, that any negative slant they can throw on a bill like this will help the anti-life side overturn it.
    But let’s remember, in reality in this case there is no forced violation of a woman’s dignity, only the requirement to have a scan of either type.
    God bless

  9. Sorry two clarifications to my comment. First when I say all women in the UK are forced to undergo mandatory ultrasound, I don’t mean by law, but by the current practise. (The cynical side of me says the scan is something extra to charge the woman or the NHS for). And secondly, of course in most cases an abortion-bound woman will not be shown her scan.

  10. Lawrence, a woman doesn’t stop being a person because she’s considering doing something evil. A person who does bad things is still a person. And people have certain rights. People have a right to have their dignity respected, even if they are doing awful things.

    Forcibly inserting a foreign object into someone’s vagina against her will meets the legal definition of rape. Everyone has a right not to be raped.

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