Wake up, Wisconsin. The future is here, and it's the past, back for another try. Bring on the day drinking, because the legislature thinks it's the world of Mad Men: women should be barefoot and pregnant, they shouldn't worry their pretty little heads about things like pregnancy or their bodies or choices, and if they get pregnant, well, the little sluts had it coming, didn't they?
What am I talking about? Well, in case you missed my last post, they've been up to more abortion-limiting shenanigans. Only this time, nobody's laughing.
Late on Thursday night, the Wisconsin Assembly spent hours 'debating' SB 206, a forced ultrasound bill, that requires women undergoing an abortion to: have an ultrasound, have the details of the ultrasound explained to her in lay and medical terms (in terms of dimensions as well as visible features), and find the fetal heartbeat if applicable and have it explained. The bill was ramrodded through the Senate with only two speeches of debate before the calling of a roll-call vote. The bill requires that the ultrasound must be done 24h prior to the abortion (like the rest of Wisconsin's mandatory state counseling) and the woman must be provided with a list of places where she can get an ultrasound for free. Note that the 'places that do ultrasounds for free' would largely mean Crisis Pregnancy Centers, or as one representative called them, "Crisis Pregnancy Lying Centers." CPCs, though they receive funding from the state, are usually religiously affiliated and exist solely for the purpose of pressuring women not to pursue abortions. Most of them provide medically inaccurate information (not just inaccurate but actually just plain false information) and often will not refer women to abortion providers.
Democrats in the Assembly proposed a series of 13 amendments to the bill, attempting to add provisions such as:
-allowing the woman to refuse the ultrasound or to refuse to view the images
-requiring informed consent for the ultrasound
-requiring that the ultrasound be performed by a trained technician or clinician
-requiring that facilities providing free ultrasounds have a physician on hand to read the ultrasound (this with several variants, including language about screening for ectopic pregnancies or other complications)
-requiring insurance coverage for the mandatory ultrasound
-including exceptions for fetal anomalies, so that a woman would not be forced to view a devastating ultrasound more than once
-exempting abortions performed to save the life of the woman
All of these amendments were defeated by a party-line vote.
Democratic assembly members pointed out that the bill had not actually received a vote in committee; this point of order was ignored.
The bill passed on a party-line vote, 56-39 (4 abstentions).
Activist Rebecca Kemble (@rebeccakemble) documented the unfolding disaster of a day with photos and managed to capture several of the Assemblywomen's speeches in response to the passage of the bill. Tissues advised.
Rep. Janet Bewley chastised her male colleagues for their focus on women's reproductive health; she asked them, "Where are vasectomies and male reproductive responsibilities" in this bill? She warned them that one day, their bodies and choices would be under scrutiny. "If it's sauce for the goose, it's sauce for the gander. I'm waiting for the day when we can have your anatomy on trial." In the second part, she accuses them: ""You want to hold her down and force her to take another look, yet you aren't willing to take another look at this bill...You will not take an ultrasound of this bill."
Rep. LaTonya Johnson brought her fellow Assembly members to task for calling themselves 'pro-life:' "Ask yourself where you stand after the child is born and you want to protect their quality of life."
Rep. Mandy Wright's speech was the most moving. She shared the story of how, at 8 years old, she was raped by her cousin. She implored the legislature to think of what they were doing to women who would become pregnant after rape or incest; she implored them to think of their daughters, and how they would feel if they were placed in such a horrible circumstance.
Rep. Sondy Pope recalled her own abortion when she learned that in her second, wanted pregnancy, the fetus had a defect incompatible with life. "Some decisions you can't have! You can’t hurt people this way! Some day one of your relatives will be faced with this and then you’ll know."
Rep. Janis Ringhand reminded the Assembly that before abortion was legal, women died at the hands of back alley illegal abortionists, bent coat-hangers and all. She reminded them that the Assembly got rid of the requirement for medically accurate sex education and its inevitable results: more teen pregnancies. "I hate to think what's ahead of my two granddaughters, who are 10 and 16...Women are in charge of their own bodies. It's not a political issue."
Protesters lining the gallery wore duct tape over their mouths; the speaker required the duct tape to be removed. The protesters sat with their hands over their mouths instead. When a burst of applause followed a speech by Rep. Pasch, several rows were cleared from the room without a warning.
The most obnoxious part of the coverage I read, though, was that one representative, an emergency medicine doctor from the northwestern corner of the state, spoke in favor of the bill by describing the joy he and his wife felt on seeing their twins "tickling each other and chasing each other around the womb." I can't believe that ANY doctor would abuse their position in order to harm patients the way this legislation does. I can't believe anyone who's been through medical school would pretend there's enough room in a uterus for playing tag. Luckily for me (unluckily for him), you can contact any of the representatives through their website. I find his behavior so appalling I have happily posted my angry letter to him below, and encourage you to send him a letter telling him how you feel.
Dear Representative Severson,
You dishonor the title of Doctor of Medicine.
When you testified in favor of SB 206 and spoke about you and your wife seeing your twins "tickling each other" and "chasing each other around the womb," you were dishonest and deceitful in the name of politics, and you should be ashamed.
As a physician, unless your training was so deficient as to not include a clerkship in OB/GYN, you should know better. Such turns of phrase belie the realities of pregnancy; what's more, choosing to speak in such a way without considering or mentioning the very real and not inconsiderable complications of pregnancy (of which I am certain you are aware) is an abuse of your title of "Doctor."
As a medical student, it is shocking and shameful to me that I will have to call you a colleague; perhaps luckily, you are in the legislature and I assume are no longer practicing medicine.
What's more, your position on these bills displays a shocking lack of professionalism; it is the fiduciary duty to our patients that requires physicians to be neutral to the choices of the woman before them; it is the duty to our patients to honor their autonomy; it is the duty to our patients that require that we do what they consider to be in their best interests despite our feelings are about their choices.
You have chosen to impose your will on the women of Wisconsin in a way that NO physician should ever do.
You can see the senators who voted for this bill here, and the representatives who voted for it here. If you or your parents or any of your relations or friends live in one of the districts that voted for this bill, this is your task: Talk to them. Tell them why this bill is bad for Wisconsin. Especially for my friends in medical school--we know better than anyone the problems that arise in pregnancy; I know too many of my classmates who shudder when they think of what the process of childbirth looks like. Would you force that on anyone? Would you impose your will on your patients, or worse, the will of the legislature? Is that ethical?
Ask yourself, and do what you can: Talk about it. Our friends and family don't understand this the way that we do; we have a responsibility to speak up when the legislature is attempting to do our job for us (and the jerks don't even have to go to medical school or take Step exams or anything).