HB2 as passed by the 2017 Kentucky Legislature is disconcerting on its own regarding reproductive rights and the rights of women in the Commonwealth, but let’s look just a bit deeper (no pun intended – you’ll understand in a moment) at the most concerning detail of the bill.
HB2 as passed in the 2016 legislature required that a woman seeking pregnancy termination in the Commonwealth undergo the information step of informed consent 24 hours prior to the procedure. HB2 as just cleared the house yesterday requires that the woman also undergo an ultrasound immediately prior to the procedure. The patient does not have to look at the monitor, but the practitioner must describe the image to the patient. You’re thinking, “What’s the big deal? Some jelly on the belly and a piece of foam-padded plastic being rubbed over the abdomen?” You’d be wrong.
The law plainly states that this ultrasound must be transvaginal. Transvaginal ultrasound is a type of pelvic ultrasound used by doctors to examine female reproductive organs. This includes the uterus, fallopian tubes, ovaries, cervix, and vagina. “Transvaginal” means “through the vagina.” This is an internal examination.
Now, you’re probably thinking, “Um. Ok. Still don’t see the big deal here.” I mean, after all, this woman has already entered the clinic to have a pregnancy terminated so obviously she knows there is going to be some equipment snaking up in her goods. Right?
And… In some ways I agree with you. But, in some ways I am LIVID.
Not very female who undergoes the procedure is a full-grown woman. Not even every full-grown woman is there as an outcome of her own decision making. So, let it sit with you a moment that our legislators just mandated that rape and incest victims, regardless of age, undergo having a large, phallic wand inserted into their vagina to attain ultrasound images that could have been attained externally with traditional ultrasound methods.
Are you OK with that? I’m not.
Here in Kentucky our GOP controlled legislature made passing what they call “Right to Work” legislation its priority. It is such a priority that they made it HB1 – the first bill to be addressed by the House of Representatives in the 2017 session. This legislation, from a liberal perspective, is a move toward edging out the union influence and the power of collective bargaining in the blue-collar workforce. I’m aligned with those who oppose this legislation, but have an issue with what is going on on Frankfort today from a female perspective.
The call went out for protesters to come literally make their voices heard in the capitol this morning. The Kentucky Democratic Party even reserved the rotunda so protesters could be inside out of the weather. The pictures of the rotunda I’ve seen this morning show a LOT of union folks there to protest HB1. That’s fantastic that they’ve turned out… However, there are very few or no obvious folks there in opposition to HB2 (requiring a woman to have an ultrasound prior to pregnancy termination). This frustrates me.
Yes, I seem to be a hypocrite as I sit here in my warm office space listening to NPR and my dogs snoring while I read media reports from Frankfort rather than schlepping it to Frankfort first thing this morning to protest in person. It wasn’t public fact that legislators would be meeting today, Saturday, until very late in the day Friday. This caused a lot of scrambling by the folks in opposition to the issues in question which seems to have been at least the partial GOP intent of holding sessions on Saturday. I didn’t learn of today’s sessions until almost 6pm yesterday. Whether traveling last night or early this morning to make it to Frankfort by 8:30am I would have been traveling in the dark on roads still damp in spots from our snow – in single digit temperatures. This is not a trip I would take unless for emergency purposes or a well-planned trip.
We ladies of eastern Kentucky have no one in Frankfort who has our back… Who is willing to risk losing votes because people are ill-educated as to the intent of these bills… Those folks who hear the word abortion and tune out anything else with a resounding cry of, “I’m agin’ it!” A person who has her own uterus is entitled to her own opinion as to whether or not pregnancy termination is an option for HER and only HER. No one else. If you don’t have a uterus, you have no dog in this fight at all.
I know of a few women in the region who are brave enough to voice their support of reproductive rights, but not many. We have to stop being shamed into silence. We have to speak up. We have to refuse to let the rights our mothers, grandmothers, and aunts worked so hard for in previous decades simply go quietly into that dark night.