LAST WEDNESDAY, Virginia Gov. Bob O'Donnell backed off signing a law that would have required invasive, trans-vaginal ultrasounds for many women seeking abortions, but only after his state became a national laughingstock.
Now Pennsylvania's state legislators apparently want to bask in ridicule and protest. A bill in the state House of Representatives, with 120 co-sponsors, would require any woman who wants an abortion to first get an ultrasound at her own expense. Some of the bill's supporters argue that H.B. 1077 doesn't specifically call for probes into private parts. They apparently don't understand that an external ultrasound in the first 12 weeks of pregnancy (when 88 percent of abortions are performed) can't accurately measure the fetal "gestational age" the legislation requires. That usually takes penetration.
Or, as some have described it, "state-sponsored rape."
No wonder two major doctors' groups, the American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists and the Pennsylvania Medical Society, strongly oppose the Pennsylvania bill because it essentially constitutes practicing medicine without a license.
In recent days, the Virginia legislature has re-packaged its legislation to make the "trans-vaginal" ultrasound optional (pause for a moment to consider the woman who would opt to have one) while still requiring the external ultrasound. The Pennsylvania bill hasn't been changed, but even if it also were interpreted to require "only" the external procedure, it would still be an outrageous insult to women and an undue burden on their reproductive rights. The Pennsylvania legislation is titled the "Women's Right to Know Act." Couched in faux concern for women's health, it mandates that the screen of the ultrasound machine be placed in the victim's - uh, patient's - line of sight, even though she wouldn't be forced to look at it. In addition, the woman would be "offered an opportunity to listen to the fetal heartbeat."
So, except for being forced to have a procedure that she has to pay for out of pocket (since it's not medically necessary, insurance probably won't cover it), a woman would have total autonomy over whether to open her eyes or close them. Did we say the bill claims to recognize "the importance of a woman's dignity in making an informed choice?"
It may seem that these laws placing new burdens on reproductive rights are new, but the assault has been going on since Republican takeovers of state legislatures in 2010 coincided with a record number of anti-choice bills in state legislatures last year. Like Virginians, Pennsylvanians should fight this craziness with public protest, social media - a check on Google shows several online petitions to sign - and the ballot box. State House members have a right to know this: Angry voters will make supporters of H.B. 1077 pay for it in November.