Eye On Modesto

Thoughts and observations about Modesto and Stanislaus County

The Shaming of American Women

By EOM Staff

Several states are proposing severe restrictions on abortion rights and even access to birth control.  Birth control became legal in 1965.  Abortions became legal in 1973.  In an attempt to restrict both of these things, the conservative right has proposed the following in some states:

A mandatory, medically unnecessary trans-vaginal probe ultrasound.  If the woman is insured, this procedure won’t be covered because it is medically unnecessary.  If she is uninsured and low-income, how will she pay for this?

Requiring a physician to describe in detail the fetus, and force the woman to listen to the fetal heartbeat.

Requiring a physician to tell his patient that abortions cause breast cancer, which is not true.  Carrying a pregnancy to term and breast-feeding reduce the risk of breast cancer,  but that is certainly not the same as saying abortions cause breast cancer.

Requiring a physician to read a government prepared pro-life script to their patients, even if the physician supports abortion rights.

Mandatory 24 – 72 hour waiting periods after seeing a physician, but prior to terminating the pregnancy.  This can be financially difficult for women who have to travel across a state (many states have only one abortion provider), then spend 3 nights in a hotel prior to ending the pregnancy.  She would also be forced to miss work for those 3 days, which only adds to the financial burden.

Making demographic information available on-line regarding every woman that has an abortion, including: county of residence, age, marital status, educational level, number of children she has, and how many pregnancies she has had.  They also want to require that the physicians’ name be made public. 

Requiring a woman who uses birth control for reasons other than contraception to prove to her employer that she is using it for medical reasons in order to be reimbursed by her employer-sponsored insurance.  Women often use the pill to treat endometriosis, regulate periods, relieve pain from heavy periods, control the growth of ovarian cysts or to treat severe acne.  Requiring her to show her medical records to her employer would be a violation of HIPAA (Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act).  This is a federal law, which among other things, protects the privacy of medical records.

Texas recently lost Medicaid funding for family planning due to Governor Rick Perry signing a law that takes Planned Parenthood off the list of agencies that a woman can choose for her health care services.  Medicaid law prohibits states from limiting a woman’s choice of providers, simply because that provider offers separate services (such as abortions), even though abortions are not paid by taxpayer funds.  Because of this, Medicaid has removed their funding from Texas and now low-income women will have birth control restricted.

Some states would like to ban abortion, even in the case of rape, incest or to save the mother’s life.  In discussing the possibility of allowing abortion in the case of rape Bob Winder (R-Idaho) said that he wonders if women truly know when they’ve been raped.  He also said that when a woman sees her physician about the issue of rape and pregnancy, he hopes the physician would question her about her marriage and ask if the pregnancy were really the result of a rape or of  “normal marital relations”.    This is as offensive as the statement of some male legislatures who question whether a woman truly understands what she’s doing when she terminates a pregnancy.

Fortunately, as of March 22, many of these proposals were being reviewed by the legislatures who wrote them.  I believe this is a result of the outpouring of anger from American women who do not want to lose their reproductive rights.  Ironically, the reason many of the men who wrote these proposals are giving as the purpose for reviewing them, is “I didn’t understand what that would mean.”  Apparently, it’s the men who don’t understand the reasons for birth control and the right to a safe, legal abortion.  Women understand all too well.

I can’t help but believe that many of these efforts are an attempt to “shame” American women into giving up their reproductive rights.  The creator of Doonesbury recently ran a series of comic strips about these issues.  He referred to the waiting room as the “shaming room” and the trans-vaginal probe as the “10 inch wand of shame”. 

What will be next?  We are barely past the stage of blaming a woman for being raped.  Do we want to be like Pakistan or other countries, where the woman’s family is shamed if she is raped?  And the only way for her to bring honor back to her family is to marry her rapist?  It sounds far-fetched for America…but it’s a slippery slope when you start taking away the rights of half of America’s citizens.

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