Watch and Learn

The far-right rush to trample the relationship between women and doctors has big implications for the gay community

By Sean Bugg
Published on March 22, 2012, 2:49am | Comments

It's with some glee that I've read reports of women — angered by lawmakers pushing transvaginal probes and doctor-narrated ultrasounds prior to abortions, as well as attempting to make birth control pills an optional insurance provision at the will of an employer — leaving detailed stories of their gynecological examinations and medical histories on the Facebook pages of those same lawmakers.

If these extremist politicians are that interested in women's vaginas then it is simply a case of giving them what they've asked for.

This is a truly farcical moment in American government as far-right legislators across the country continue to introduce — and in some cases, are likely to pass — legislation designed to highjack doctors to perform these wildly invasive medical techniques in order to intimidate women who are seeking legal abortion procedures. Arizona legislator Rep. Terri Proud (R) says she'd like to take things even further: ''Personally I'd like to make a law that mandates a woman watch an abortion being performed prior to having a 'surgical procedure.'''

I'll leave aside the logical feedback loop of an anti-abortion politician wanting to require one abortion to stop another. Two other thoughts come to mind, however. First, a ''make them watch'' approach is something that could be attractive to both extremes of the political spectrum. I'm sure PETA and some other animal rights groups would love the opportunity to force people to watch what happens on the slaughterhouse floor before heading to McDonald's.

Second, it's pointless. Despite years of watching Joan Rivers, people still get plastic surgery and Botox.

I'll admit, it's easy to be flip like that when the targets are so overwhelmingly ripe. But we can't forget that there are real and important issues here about women, their access to health care and their ability to trust that their doctors are there for them, not for the social-conservative wing of the Republican Party. Some in the moderate middle were uncomfortable with rhetoric declaring a required transvaginal probe to be a government-sanctioned rape. John Scalzi this week published a piece on his blog from an understandably anonymous doctor that takes on that fear of provocative language.

''I do not feel that it is reactionary or even inaccurate to describe an unwanted, non-indicated transvaginal ultrasound as 'rape,''' the doctor writes. ''If I insert ANY object into ANY orifice without informed consent, it is rape. And coercion of any kind negates consent, informed or otherwise. … [I]t's the politicians who want to use us to implement their morally reprehensible legislation. They want to use our ultrasound machines to invade women's bodies, and they want our hands to be at the controls.''

I don't often go down the ''every issue is a gay issue'' path, but in this case I believe it's true, beyond the obvious and initial fact that women, straight and lesbian, should have authority and control over their own bodies. But given the increasing interest and effort social conservatives are putting into such things as giving employers the right opt out of providing certain procedures, prescriptions and treatments because of their ''moral beliefs,'' all LGBT people should be fighting this battle now. It's not a long step from denying birth control pills for women to denying hepatitis vaccines or HIV coverage for gay men.

As always, it sounds far-fetched when put down in pixels or on paper. But as the past year has shown, what once was far-fetched can suddenly become a scary reality, no matter how farcical we believe it to be.


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