Virginia’s Ultrasound Law



Patrick is a mid-40 year old geek with an undergraduate degree in mathematics and a master's degree in Information Systems. Nothing he says here has anything to do with the official position of his employer or any other institution.

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214 Responses

  1. Avatar alkali says:

    You are referring to a floor amendment offered by Sen. Northam (D) that made the procedure optional.  It was voted down.Report

    • Avatar sonmi451 says:

      Yup, this. I mean, come on, in all the reporting that has been done about this, does this blogger think he’s the only one who’s read the bill correctly? When he can’t even read the title of the PDF document? (FLOOR AMENDMENT IN THE NATURE OF A SUBSTITUTE (Proposed by Senator Northam). Let’s go back to the Slate article, shall we?

      Since a proposed amendment to the bill—a provision that would have had the patient consent to this bodily intrusion or allowed the physician to opt not to do the vaginal ultrasound—failed on 64-34 vote,



    • Avatar sonmi451 says:

      Yup, this. I mean, come on, in all the reporting that has been done about this, does this blogger think he’s the only one who’s read the bill correctly? When he can’t even read the title of the PDF document? (FLOOR AMENDMENT IN THE NATURE OF A SUBSTITUTE (Proposed by Senator Northam).Report

      • Avatar Patrick Cahalan says:

        I’m reading the text of the PDF that is listed chronologically under the “Full Text” section of the bill as most recent.

        There is a “history” and “amendments rejected” section as well.

        If this is incorrect, heck, I’ll gladly update it.  It’s certainly the case that the site may be presenting the data in a misleading way.Report

        • Avatar Dara says:

          That is, indeed, incorrect.

          You’re right that the Northam substitute was most recent. But if you look through the chronology of the bill at the bottom of the page, you’ll see that Northam withdrew that substitute the same day he submitted it. That means the bill that passed was the previous version: the 1/26/12 introduced “Committee Substitute” that says “shall perform” instead of “shall offer.”

          It is horribly unclear, you’re right. State legislature websites are the worst.Report

        • Avatar Chris says:

          I admit I find that page confusing. The “summary as introduced” doesn’t include the “offfer” language, but instead suggests it’s mandatory, but the most recent version of the bill on that page does have the “offer” language. It doesn’t say which version was passed, though, so I remain confused.Report

      • Avatar Patrick Cahalan says:

        Sonmi, the fact that the title says that is in the nature of a substitute doesn’t, yanno, automagically make it *not* the current edition of the bill.

        You may remove your hands from my throat (metaphorically speaking) and stop yelling at me.

        Post fixed.

        Sternly worded note needs to be sent to Virginia’s IT department.Report

  2. Avatar E.C. Gach says:

    I assume then the law would sanction doctors who don’t want to do this?  I could see being against the law if you’re a doctor. 

    But otherwise, it doesn’t seem like a huge deal (other than it seems to question a woman’s ability to properly think through something like getting an abortion).

    I like the Thompson Principle.  I passed the healine while navigating Think Progress to get to Rosenberg’s blog.  It seemed so preposterous I ignored it.  Then again, that is nothing new. 

    Great catch Patrick.Report

    • Avatar greginak says:

      Obviously depending on what is the actual bill this is huge fracking deal. The ultrasound they are doing involves actually putting something into the woman’s lady parts. Why should a woman have to have something inserted into them under penalty of law? And what would it often be called if someone put something into another person without their consent or as the price for an exchange of services.Report

      • Avatar sonmi451 says:

        Because, sluts, that’s why. Sigh. This is why I can’t hang around here too long. Bleghh. All the “good catch” and “heh-indeed” for something that is obviously wrong but the blogger won’t even bother to correct.Report

          • Avatar Patrick Cahalan says:

            In sonmi’s defense, it did take me a whole 8 minutes to figure out that I was wrong, confirm it, and edit the post.  Leaving it up as evidence I can make pretty big mistakes.Report

            • Avatar sonmi451 says:

              If you have been paying even the smallest attention to the story, you would have known right away that the Northam amendment never passed, and would never have quoted a portion of that amendment to make some inane point about LOOG laws or rules or whatever. That was a Dahlia Lithwick the Slate’s legal reporter article; what, did you think she’s just another hysterical woman always screaming rape because she also writes for The DoubleX blog? Sorry, my patient is a little low when it comes to total  ignorance about this issue. You can afford to be ignorant, that’s find, but let’s not go all condescending about other people over-reacting okay?Report

              • Avatar sonmi451 says:


              • Avatar Patrick Cahalan says:

                Sonmi, I can think of a lot of reasons why a reporter with a perfectly good reputation can make an error.  A story can be held up due to editing, a million other reasons.  I read a *lot* of bad reporting, and as it turns out this may prejudice me to see something as bad reporting based upon incomplete information (Dan’s point below, pointedly skewering tho ’tis, is not lost on me, okay?)

                When you see a lot of people flaming about something on social media, you don’t always see the entire context of the story.  No, I have *not* been following this story as closely as you have.

                And thus I fucked up, full blown acknowledged.  This happens when you blog; I don’t have an editor and I’m my own fact-checker and if I misread something that’s just on me to pick up on it, and that happens.Report

              • Avatar Jesse Ewiak says:

                I’ll only point out that if say, Balloon Juice put up a post with as much wrong, say about a Reason article about eminent domain and said as a response, “I fucked up”, many people on this blog wouldn’t be very nice to them.Report

              • Avatar Patrick Cahalan says:

                Hey, I’ll take my lumps.

                It’s not the biggest screwup I’ve ever made, but it’s the biggest screwup I’ve done *here*.Report

              • Avatar James Hanley says:

                So who here do you think wouldn’t give kudos to a Balloon Juice author if they admitted straight up that they had fucked up on the facts?  One of the things that gets consistently praised at this blog is a person admitting error, so there’s a standard and tradition here of applauding that kind of ‘fessing up.Report

              • Avatar Jesse Ewiak says:

                I don’t know who for sure, but there’d be far less patting on the back than there was for Patrick. In-group versus out-group and all that. That’s not a bad thing or good thing, but a statement of fact.

                I don’t think people would not do it because they’re bad people, but because that’s how human beings work.


              • Avatar James Hanley says:

                Well, these vague and general condemnations about un-named people are a bit of a pisser.  You’re basically tarring the whole crowd with an unfalsifiable allegation because you can’t specify particular culprits, but you know somebody must be guilty.

                And, by the way, how about the good folks at Balloon Juice?  Would they be more forgiving of one of their own than of one of the conservatives or libertarians here? If they wouldn’t do any different, then what meaningful point are you making?

                If your only point is “people act this way” and you’re not actually saying something about the League, then, *yawwwnnn.* It’s kind of an out of place and indirect way to make your point.


        • Avatar Chris says:

          Dude, are you reading the same comment section I am? Basically everyone but E.C. called him on it. Apparently the reason you don’t like to come here is because you aren’t very good at ratios.Report

  3. Avatar alkali says:

    I believe this is the actual bill text (relevant portion shown, emphasis mine):

    Except in the case of a medical emergency, at least 24 hours before the performance of an abortion a qualified medical professional trained in sonography and working under the direct supervision of a physician licensed in the Commonwealth shall perform fetal ultrasound imaging


    • Avatar mistermix says:

      That’s right.

      The first law of LOOG should be:  Refine reading skills before deploying contrarianism.Report

      • Avatar Patrick Cahalan says:

        That is the version listed on 1/26.

        I’m looking at the version listed on 2/01.

        I’m assuming that the version with the most recent date under the “Full Text” section is the actual full-text current version of the bill.  Is this assumption incorrect?  I’ll gladly update the post if so.Report

        • Avatar sonmi451 says:

          Look at the damn title of the PDF document you linked to.Report

        • Avatar Jim Henley says:

          Your assumption is incorrect. In your defense, the state-gov website does not make it easy to tell which is the official bill.Report

        • Avatar James Hanley says:


          May I note, though, that even if Senator Northam’s substitute amendment has been approved, the fact remains that the original bill did require exactly what the Slate article said it required?

          And that suggests that we already have our first exception to the League’s first law–the story stokes personal outrage, but it did not misrepresent the facts.Report

          • Avatar Patrick Cahalan says:

            What’s a good rule if it doesn’t have exceptions?

            Granted, it would have been nice not to propose such a perfectly good rule while completely fishing up, but hey…Report

            • Avatar Dan Miller says:

              Patrick, just the other day, you and I were discussing the virtues of critiquing ones own position.  I’d just like to suggest that if my bad habit is assuming the worst of my political enemies, yours is seeing yourself as a reasoned voice above the fray.  It’s a temptation that you might want to think about before you write posts like this one.  I don’t mean to pile on, but to continue to see this as a “perfectly good rule” is a warning sign.


            • Avatar Plinko says:

              Everything that gets my blood up over at Balko seems to also be an exception to this rule, much to my consternation.Report

  4. Why focus on the left -right paradigm? John Lennon said, ‘put the energy into the solution, not the problem.’

    Check out, this is the trouble on the horizon. Our 1st, 2nd and 4th may be gone, but the right to own our land, our water is about to get taken away.  Deals are already getting done btwn Japan and China, all kinds of trade is erasing the need for the dollar. The only reason you haven’t felt petrol and heat prices being, the dollar is still the reserve currency. That very well may change, and so gradually, so quietly, the way the rest of the world is dismissing America, you won’t even notice. Until you do.

    Alarmest, no way, MF Global just proved there’s no safety net left.  Laugh at gold and Ron Paul all day long, but I wouldn’t.

    I can assure you, the tea party or whatever you perceive the tea party to be, is the least of your problems….


    • Avatar Jim Henley says:

      3rd Amendment looking GOOD though!

      But you’re right: there’s no way powerful people could steal GOLD deposits from ordinary people and get away with it, on account of gold is magic.Report

      • Avatar Kimmi says:

        forgetting the fact that FDR, I believe it was, basically Did steal gold.

        Petrodollars, on the other hand, can at least be useful. And explosive!Report

      • No, if one buys gold in Austria and puts it in a deposit box in Europe, it’s quite safe. That is, if one thought this a good idea.

        Gold isn’t magic, it’s a dynamic, not a number. That’s the whole point.Report

        • Avatar Jim Henley says:

          In economics there’s a concept called “liquidity.” There is no, repeat NO, useful way to keep your cash in the form of gold and have it be simultaneously safe and spendable. All that changes is the available methods of theft.Report

          • Not only liquid but spendable. Now.

            There were plenty of people that kept their gold bars in the 30’s, not everyone just gave them over to FDR ya know. Jesus.

            And I can assure, with the financial terrorism going on in Italy, knowing Italy as I do, and I know it well, they won’t be turning over their gold, and they have a shit load of it.

            I get so tired of this economic mumbo jumbo, I’m surrounded by international economists, each with their own theory, none of it applies to the global market, specifically Keynesian.

            I just sold an article, a profile piece on one of those international bankers, a very major player on the global stage. They just laugh. He knew the guy (his professor at London School of Economics) the Goldman Sachs guy that scammed Greece by cooking the books.  No one but the local yokels listen to Paul Krugman. And look at Obama, who’s he going to put at the World Bank but Summers or Hillary. LOL. Left-right paradigm.Report

          • But on a serious note, it’s a very random, scary global market. With all these resource wars, currency wars, etc, it’s a dangerous game, for all of us.

            Read and get educated, everyone should.Report

            • Avatar Kimmi says:

              … and for people who’d rather not listen to this kook, I’d suggest Calculated Risk. Or Bonddad. If you’re not of the numeric persuasion, a quick pounce of their blogrolls will send you to something better.Report

    • Avatar James Hanley says:

      Please don’t feed the fishing trolls.Report

  5. Avatar alkali says:

    Your assumption that the later in time version is the operative version is reasonable, but not correct.

    The 1/26 Committee substitute was agreed to on 1/30.

    Sen. Northam’s 2/01 proposed floor substitute — which is what you have quoted — was withdrawn that same day.  (Capital News Service:  “Sen. Ralph Northam, D-Norfolk, is a physician who opposed the bill. On Tuesday, he sought to amend Vogel’s bill, prompting senators to delay the vote on SB 484 until Wednesday [2/1]. On Wednesday, however, Northam’s plea for another delay was shot down.”)

    So the Committee substitute — the one I linked to — continues to be the operative version.Report

  6. Avatar Eric Martin says:

    As mentioned, the amendment came later, and was rejected. By a large majority.

    You should fix this post, STAT.Report

  7. Avatar Sam says:

    In other words, the state of Virginia is mandating rape. Let’s not split hairs about what is happening here.Report

    • Avatar James Hanley says:

      Well, you only have to be raped if you want an abortion.

      Which sucks particularly for those who want an abortion because they were raped.Report

    • Avatar JM says:

      Is it too soon to speak of a “Rape-ublican Party”?Report

    • Avatar JG New says:

      It’s not probably actually rape under the Virginia statutes, but the sheer misogynistic, violent intent of it is simply breathtaking.  It’s not actually coercion, because the woman can always presumably elect not to have the abortion.  But I would argue that it is the moral equivalent of legal coercion because it denies a woman control over her own body by force of the threat of genital penetration.

      It may pass the legal test for not being actually rape, but it is its disgusting moral equivalent.  And it’s almost certainly unconstitutional.Report

      • Avatar Will Truman says:

        The pro-life movement seems to be doing absolutely everything it can to alienate me these days. This is just obscene.Report

        • Avatar Tom Van Dyke says:

          “Ultrasound saves babies” turns up tons of Google hits.  There is zero moral problem for those who think this is a good thing.

          Zero aesthetic problem here.  Not disgusting, not obscene.  Those words are reserved for the abortion itself.Report

          • Avatar BSK says:

            Ends… have you met means?Report

          • Avatar greginak says:

            Wow Tom …just WowReport

          • Avatar Will Truman says:

            Tom, it’s not the ultrasounds – the pictures themselves and the viewing of them – that the problem. It’s the (involuntary) penetration that is required to get them at that stage of the game. Ideally, a woman would know what she is aborting before she does so. I have mixed feelings about the local crisis pregnancy center where I live, but their “free ultrasound program” (to anyone that wants one) is a winner, in my book. This? Not so much.


            • Avatar Sam says:

              This is a legal medical procedure. Forcing a woman for no medical reason to even view the ultrasound is ridiculous. Raping her to get it is something else entirely.Report

            • Avatar Tom Van Dyke says:

              WillT,  “disgusting” and “obscene” describe the abortion itself far more than Virginia’s attempt to get the mother to call it off.  My comment here is about perspective.

              Not talking legal.  If it saves babies—and it appears it will—there is zero moral problem with this inconvenience.  Zero.

              As for the legal, I expect a constitutional challenge would and will succeed.  But the moral calculus of saving the baby—which many women have been convinced looks like a formless mass, not a baby but a “blastocyst”—well, it looks like a baby.

              Tellya the truth, I personally am less militant about this stuff, more non-confrontational, more “moderate.”  But this law has a supermajority in the Virginia legislature, and that’s enough for them to push this agenda per my view of political philosophy of consensus: fine, proper, and democratic.

              And on the moral level, anything short of shooting abortionists is morally defensible on some level if it saves babies.  Saving babies is a 10.  Shooting abortionists is a minus 10.  Everything else is on the table in a principled moral calculus.

              [I repeat my legal opinion, FWIW, is that this VA law will not hold up in the courts.  But I reserve “disgusting” and “obscene” for realities like abortion, not abstract legalities.]Report

              • Avatar sonmi451 says:

                Yup, a moderate who posts pictures of fetus just because. Hey, why not show pictures of aborted fetus too? In fact, why not do a full blog post just on that? So anything short of killing a doctor is okay? What about dragging a woman from an abortion clinic to “save a baby”?Report

              • Avatar Tom Van Dyke says:

                Good idea, somni.  We should link to a YouTube of an abortion for moral perspective.

                Drag a woman away from the abortion clinic?  No.  That would be at least a minus 9 if not a minus 10 and unarguable in a principled moral calculus.

                Show her an ultrasound of the human life in her womb before extinguishing it?  I have no moral or aesthetic problem with that.  Zero.

                You want to shut me up, shout me down instead of discussing this like morally concerned adults?  Well, we’ll see where that leads.  You might succeed.

                And damn right I posted the picture of 7 1/2 week old fetus because it’s completely germane to this discussion, right here and right now.

                Look at it, feel it, get out of the noise in your head, climb out from behind the words.  Completely visceral, your guts, feel it, that’s the law’s intention, not blahblahblah.  Behold the blastocyst.


              • Avatar BSK says:

                Would it be germane for me to post video of a woman having a video camera shoved up her vagina?Report

              • Avatar James says:

                Damned if it’s germane, but let’s let Tom get an idea why we call it GOP-SPONSORED RAPE.Report

              • Avatar BSK says:


                If you think saving babies should be promoted at (nearly) all costs, why not support the contraception coverage mandate? Contraception saves a whole lot of babies.Report

              • Avatar Will Truman says:

                I’m actually curious about how the math on this works. At least in theory, contraception prevents pregnancies. But they also (it would stand to reason) increase sexual activity by at least some amount. Given the failure rates of contraception, it’s not entirely clear that the failure rate of more instances might outstrip the protection rate of the instances that would occur regardless of the existence or non-existence of protection.Report

              • Nob Akimoto Nob Akimoto says:

                Interesting question. And let’s bear in mind that maybe half of pregnancies are miscarried before the mother even knows they’ve happened…so statistics might not cover it, either.

                I think in the end this might be unanswerable, though  we could potentially do a statistical study (if our Institutional Review Board would deem it to be sufficiently moral) where say we take 10,000 women of child-bearing age for a control and study….give the study group free contraceptives for a course of ten years and figure out what the rates of pregnancy and abortion end up being compared to the control…

                Good luck funding that, though.Report

              • Avatar BSK says:

                Well, not all contraception is created equal. I’m referring specifically to “the pill” and other hormonal contraceptives for women (I don’t know the technical term, so forgive me). A bit of amateur internet sleuthing turns up a 99.9% success rate when used properly. Of course, not all women use it properly. But if that number is too believed, it would be hard to fathom contraception resulting in more net pregnancies.

                As I’ve said elsewhere, my wife can’t use birth control. We use condoms with not change to our sexual patterns. We’ve had at least two condoms rip which, thankfuly, we noticed immediately. Had we not, our inability to use the type of contraception the Church wanted to avoid offering access to, would have dramaticaly increased our odds of a pregancy, thus dramatically increasing our odds of seeking an abortion. Of course, this is but one anecdote.Report

              • Avatar Will Truman says:

                I typically go by this table, which looks at both perfect and typical failure rates. The typical failure rate for oral contraception is about 9% of that in comparison to a couple that is trying to conceive over the course of a year. The chart suggests that the rate for those not trying to conceive is 85% (compared to 89% of those trying). That assumes a rather marginal difference, though I don’t know what the basis of that assumption is. My anecdotal evidence (which is no more and no less valuable than BSK’s) is that (formal) contraception does indeed effect frequency and attitudes.

                The danger in contraception is the Rugby Paradox. The Rugby Paradox is that rugby, which uses very little padding, actually produces fewer injuries than football where everyone is extremely protected. The illusion of protection.

                A mitigating factor is that even without formal contraception, the illusion of protection can still exist through withdrawal or fertility awareness. Withdrawal was approached with ridiculous scare tactics (and outright lies) in sex ed, though, to try to counteract that (I have mixed feelings about the scare tactics).

                Then the last factor is even harder to nail down, which is cultural. There’s little denying that the Pill helped spawn changes in sexual habits. So even in the sort of thorough study that Nob talks about, there’s still the issue of kids without contraception navigating a society where sexual norms are influence notably by the contraception that others have.

                It’s a web that is enormously hard to disentangle. My instinct is to fall on the side of contraception if only because it gives those who know how to use them the tools to prevent accidents. I do genuinely worry about the Illusion of Protection, and the culture of invincibility that lasts only until the armor is pierced. And the knowledge that, if the armor is pierced, the woman at least knows that still has a choice that can prevent an unwanted child. So in a sense, that invincibility remains for her (depending on her perspective on the subject, and her access, of course).Report

              • Avatar Tom Van Dyke says:

                Will, I leave the disposition of this thread up to you, per what a blastazoid mass of cells looks like @ 7.5 weeks:


                This is what the Virginia legislature is after, that the mother know what she’s flushing from her womb.

                An informed conscience.

                Which is uglier, 1) that she know, or if 2) she doesn’t know.

                I have zero moral problem with 1).  The rest is blahblah.


                None of this has anything to do with me.  Tom Van Dyke, who cares who he is.  Please don’t do me on this, everybody.  The subject—and reality—of abortion brings me nothing but great pain.  I don’t like discussing it, I wish it wasn’t a reality atall.  It brings pain to everybody involved.  It seems like an escape hatch and a magical trapdoor, but it isn’t.

                It hurts now and it keeps hurting foreverafter. Even talking about it hurts.  If it doesn’t hurt to talk about this, you’re not talking about it right.


              • Avatar Michael Drew says:

                I don’t mean to “do” you, Tom, but it is completely irrelevant that you have no moral problem with them knowing.  The issue is their being forced to “know” in order to receive the procedure.  And then what is necessary to happen in order for that knowledge to be imparted. You can have no moral problem with all that, too, but let’s be clear what anyone has a problem with here.Report

              • Avatar Tom Van Dyke says:

                Is your problem with this a moral problem?  Then say so, Michael.  I have no moral problem with what it takes to save the baby short of violence, which we agree is not acceptable.


                As for the legal problems, I stipulate them in advance, but I honestly don’t care if it saves babies.  Behold the blastocyst is my argument, and that of the VA legislature.  I think it’s powerful and it is elegant.

                I will not post the photo again, although it’s completely germane to the argument here, and cannot be buried with mere words.



              • Avatar Michael Drew says:

                Didn’t read far enough back to see where you stipulated a legal problem, Tom, mea culpa.

                But the issue is not that maybe you have some kind of a problem with her being forced to know – the issue is that, if you do, you are obfuscating it by speaking to a different question, when that first question is the one that is on the table.  It’s that you keep saying you have no moral problem with her knowing, when the issue that is on the table is what we think of the fact that she is forced to know, and that that force includes penetration of her vagina in order to give her knowledge she may or may not want. Perhaps some would have a problem with any abortion patient anywhere ever knowing what the blastocyst being aborted looks like – maybe, maybe not, but that is what someone would have to feel to differ from you on your statement that, “I have zero moral problem with… that she know.”  But that is not the issue that is being raised with this law.  the issue being raised is what we think of the fact that it forces a woman to receive this information, whether she wants to or not, in order to get an abortion.  Continually saying that you don’t have any problem with women knowing the information amounts to intentionally trying to divert the discussion away from the point being raised: that she is to be forced to know it.

                So by all means, say that you have no moral problem with her being forced to look at pictures like this in order to get an abortion (or get it paid for by the state or whatever the provision is).  But saying that you merely have no moral problem with her knowing doesn’t speak to whether you have the moral (or legal) problem with this law that it is actually being suggested we should perhaps have with it, nor does it even speak to what the law does: force a patient to receive this knowledge in order to get an abortion, not simply allow her to.

                I, too, have zero moral problem with… that she know(s).Report

              • Avatar Michael Drew says:

                Oh, man, my bad again. Iou also said in your response to me,

                “I have no moral problem with what it takes to save the baby short of violence, which we agree is not acceptable.”

                …which is obviously saying what I’ve asked you to say in the comment responding to that comment, so apologies for missing that also.  It is still the case that to repeatedly say that you have no problem that the woman knows what the blastocyst looks like before an abortion is, as many times as you say it, a not-germane statement and a diversion from the issue being raised with the law, and thus the issue you suggest you’re addressing.

                I would ask one other question, Tom: when the abortion question came up for the first time in a long time here a few weeks ago, you (unless I am completely mistaken, as I obviously have been in this thread already) made a point to say that you were avoiding using the term “baby” for “fetus,” “zygote,” etc.  Now you seem quite unabashed in saying that you’ll support whatever is necessary to “save babies.”  Do I have the person who expressed that earlier intention wrongly confused with you, or has your rhetorical approach to the discussion of this issue changed?Report

              • Avatar BSK says:


                All fantastic points. Many I did not consider.

                I would disagree with one point and say that, with contraceptives being what they are nowadays, the cat (pun avoided) is already out of the bag. Our sexual culture has changed already. Positing the number of abortions in a contraception free world with the number in our world today. We need to think about whether a woman without good access to contraceptives commonly available is more or less likely to have an abortion than if she did have good access. As you correctly point out, the answer is a lot more complicated than I made it out to be.

                I would never have sex without protection. So I would be someone who is theoretically more likely to have an abortion because of contraception. But a lot of people would and do and have unprotected sex. I don’t know to what extent their choice is related to access or what else. Ultimately, are there more peopleloke me in our society or folks who are going todoit regardless, for whom a lack of access means a much greater chance of abortion? I don’t even begin to know how to amswer that.Report

              • Avatar BSK says:

                And to Tom, there are many things short of violence that save babies. How many African babies would be saved by taxing Americans at 90% and sending that money to Africa andother places with high infant mortality rates? Would you support that? How many babies saved by expanding Medicaid to ensure all 8 month olds get free medical care? How many babies saved by taxing surbanites to putmore cups in urban areas to protect 8-year-olds? Do you support all these measures? If not, it makes me think you are more interested in protecting fetuses than babies, and are more interested in making points than actually making pro-baby policy.Report

              • Avatar Will Truman says:


                How interesting. I was actually thinking of the same thing you were, even to the point of the cat/bag metaphor. But I guess I left it out of my comment. I think that there is some truth there. It’s one of the reasons why, though I am actually sympathetic to the “wait until marriage” notion, as a matter of policy I am really skeptical of its odds of success regardless of the status of contraception.

                On the other hand, I do think there are responses to perceived dangers. Norms can change in the conservative direction as well, under the right circumstances. If our current fears about gonorrhea and syphilis becoming completely resistant to anti-biotics comes to pass, I would not be surprised to see some shifts in behavior (more in terms of promiscuity than anything, but a possible change all the same). It’s not anything I would bet on public policy on, however (and, just to be absolutely clear, nothing that would make me ever wish for incurable STDs).Report

              • Avatar Tom Van Dyke says:

                True, Michael Drew.  This made me realize that logical but bloodless defenses of blastocysts are easy to respect, and easier still to promptly ignore and forget.

                “Baby” is accurate, and to see the ultrasound is worth more than all the words in the world.Report

              • Avatar BSK says:


                I would really like to see/hear you engage the questions I have asked with regards to acceptable moral obligations to require in the pursuit of saving babies. Care to address them?Report

              • Avatar BSK says:


                Just saw your post now so I am responding a few days late.

                I’m curious how we (as a society) would go about changing sexual culture. On the one hand, it is great that we are slowly but surely moving away from the “sex is icky and shouldn’t be talked about” mindset that dominated America for so long. It is unfortunate that “sexual liberation” has been coupled with a rise in irresponsible behavior that has made sex a risky endeavor for many.

                For a long time (up until this very conversation), I was fully on board with open and easy access to contraception, under the “if people are going to do it anywayat least let’s make it safe” logic. However, ow you have me wondering if this is really true. Maybe people would not do it and we’d have fewer unwanted pregnanices, fewer abortions, fewer children raised by unprepared or umstale parental units, fewer STDs, etc. I think it is quite obvious that a reduction in all those things is good. But do the ends justify the means? Are there other ways to shift the culture without limiting contraception access? What else fueled the “sexual revolution”? (I was born after all the sex freaks already declared victory). There are still so many ways in which sex and, more importantly, conversations around sex are taboo, which I think plays a large part in our collective issues with the whole practice. Perhaps this is where we start…

                Or we could just promote anal, as I did during a high achool poster contest centered on promoting safe sexual habits that help prevent teen pregnancy. The judges did not thinkit funny to compare the pain of anal sex favorably with the pain of childbirth. I was DQ’ed. Rat bastards.Report

              • Avatar Sam says:

                The assumption that women need to “know” is that they’re too stupid to know that they’re really, genuinely pregnant. Its offensive. There’s nobody on Earth who ends up in an abortion clinic who doesn’t know what’s going on and pretending otherwise is a utterly insidious way to force them to undergo the discomfort of the trans-vaginal ultrasound. Let’s stop pretending this is anything other than an attempt by ultra-conservatives to punish women seeking an entirely legal medical procedure.Report

              • Nob Akimoto Nob Akimoto says:

                If dragging a woman physically from an abortion clinic is a moral wrong, what does a physically invasive procedure that includes the use of a vaginal probe count as?

                We’re not talking aesthetics here, we’re talking about a requirement appended to an already psychologically loaded procedure with a horrible sense of invasion.

                For all we know this MIGHT prevent abortions, but more likely this is one of those chilling effect laws that is more likely to create a market for illicit ways of aborting, ranging from inducing deliberate miscarriages to “back-alley” abortions.

                It’s morally reprehensible to force a woman to undergo an unnecessarily invasive procedure, regardless of the “good” you may be considering. More importantly given that a substantial portion of pregnancies end in miscarriage anyway whether this invasive procedure would actually “save” the child is up for debate as well.Report

              • Avatar KSD says:

                If anyone is interested in a “look at it, feel it, get out of the noise in your head, climb out from behind the words, [c]ompletely visceral, your guts, feel it” experience, please join me on this little vision quest:

                Imagine you and your lovely wife have two beautiful kids whom you adore.  Your wife comes from a large family and you and she have decided to try to get pregnant with a third child.  You’ve been trying to get pregnant for about nine months and are overjoyed to find out your wife is expecting.  She starts shopping for baby clothes, picking out a new crib, dragging the breast pump out of the garage to see if she needs to buy new tubing.  You go with her for a normal check up and her doctor tells her that she has been diagnosed with primary pulmonary hypertension, and that it is extremely dangerous for her to continue with the pregnancy.  Your doctor is very clear–continuing with the pregnancy most certainly puts your wife’s life at a more-than-moderate risk.  You and your wife agonize over this unbelievably impossible choice–gamble with her life and potentially leave the children you already have without a mother, or have an abortion.  After much soul-searching, consultation with your pastor, prayer, tears, sleepless nights, and unimaginable agony, you and your wife decide to go through with an abortion.  You know you will grieve the loss of the baby you so hoped for, but feel that you have no real choice. The day finally comes.  You both just want this nightmare to be over.  But first, your wife has to have a transvaginal ultrasound she doesn’t need or want, and then you both have to look at the baby you want but can’t have.  Then she has to actually have the abortion, and then you have to somehow pick up the pieces of your lives because you have two children who need you.

                It is wrong to assume that every woman seeking an abortion is an ignorant slut who would change her mind if only she saw a picture of her developing baby.  It is wrong to assume that every woman seeking an abortion is doing it because she doesn’t want to be inconvenienced.  It is wrong to make a law based on solving “problems” based on shortsighted assumptions about women who want or need abortions.  It is wrong to let the government intrude on potentially devastating and certainly private, personal moments between a woman and her family.Report

              • Avatar Tom Van Dyke says:

                KSD, it is wrong to attribute the word “slut” to anyone’s mind in this sincere discussion.  Your “vision quest” has gone too far in imagining feelings that aren’t there in your interlocutor.

                Without debating the specifics of your pulmonary hypertension scenario and the necessity of abortion thereby, if fetal life is indeed as precious to you as you say it is, you would endure the inconvenience of the ultrasound procedure to possibly save the life of another baby where the hypertension scenario didn’t apply.

                Or at least I would, and find it no inconvenience at all in a moral sense—indeed I would find it as an obligation to the lives of other babies not my own.  Indeed, it would make me happy to endure that inconvenience to help save the lives of other babies in the process of losing my own, because the ultrasound regime does result in babies not being aborted.

                Since I myself am speaking only of morality and not legality here, I don’t find the ultrasound to be an “undue” moral burden in the least, that good can come out of your tragedy.

                Thank you for your sincere reply, if it indeed this was one.Report

              • Avatar sonmi451 says:

                TVD, of course YOU would feel no incovenience, we’re not talking of shoving an object INTO you. Talk to me again when we’re talking about a law mandating someone shoving an object into you.Report

              • Avatar sonmi451 says:

                “Or at least I would, and find it no inconvenience at all in a moral sense—indeed I would find it as an obligation to the lives of other babies not my own.  Indeed, it would make me happy to endure that inconvenience to help save the lives of other babies in the process of losing my own, because the ultrasound regime does result in babies not being aborted.”

                The audacity here is amazing. What exactly are you going to “endure”, TVD? Pregnancy? Childbirth? The risk of dying during pregnancy and childbirth? I don’t think that men has no right to express opinions about abortion, but when men starts talking about all the sacrifices they are willing to endure (in comparison to those craven cowardly women, I suppose), I just want to scream.Report

              • Avatar Kimmi says:


                Would you subject a daughter of yours to this invasive procedure…

                … at age 12, assuming she’s pregnant?

                … at age 12, assuming she’s pregnant by her brother (age 14)?

                … at age 12, assuming she’s pregnant by her brother, and it’s sexual abuse she hasn’t been able to stop for the past year?


                A PICTURE is worth jack shit, compared to morning sickness.

                Compared to the hormonal changes in a woman.

                Compared to a woman’s “contented glow.”


              • Avatar Tom Van Dyke says:

                Kimmi, did you catch the JFK “rape” of Mimi Alford?

                That one was in your wheelhouse, as I recall your definition of rape being more expansive than most people’s.  By your definition—and by many other folks’—JFK was a rapist.

                As for your questions, I’ll answer that I don’t know, nor are my personal sentiments about my own family necessarily relevant.  But you’ve stacked the deck with the most egregious exceptions imaginable, and exceptions make for bad law.  They make for bad moral discussions.

                It’s really impossible to sort these things out if the only standard is the worst exceptions, and that method of argument, of discussion, serves mostly to end all discussion.

                Could a waiver be put in place for rape or incest per your example?  This does not seem unreasonable or incompatible with present law or with our prevailing attitudes.Report

              • Avatar BSK says:

                Like the play “Keely and Du”? Thank goodness that was a work of fiction.



              • Avatar ThatPirateGuy says:

                Tom you are helping the pro-choice side so much. I thank you for your unintended service.Report

              • Nob Akimoto Nob Akimoto says:

                So principled moral calculus…like say…oh I dunno, locking up a woman who might want an abortion and strictly controlling her diet until she gives birth so that she can’t miscarry?

                This makes an utter mockery of your concerns about state intrusion into religious freedom, or any sort of freedom, really, you realize this, right?Report

              • Avatar BSK says:

                “Not talking legal.  If it saves babies—and it appears it will—there is zero moral problem with this inconvenience.  Zero.”

                So the ends justify the means? You kna what else saves babies? Contraception. You know what you were opposed to? A law that required all employers to offer contraception coverage. Was the potential infrigement on religious liberty a -10 or worse? If not, your moral calculus fails.Report

              • Avatar North says:

                Tellya the truth, I personally am less militant about this stuff, more non-confrontational, more “moderate.”  But this law has a supermajority in the Virginia legislature, and that’s enough for them to push this agenda per my view of political philosophy of consensus: fine, proper, and democratic.

                Odd Tom, PPACA had a supermajority in the Senate when it passed but that didn’t make it acceptable enough for you to not say it was an illegal power grab by the administration that was illegally rammed down our collective throats.Report

              • Avatar Jesse Ewiak says:

                No, liberal social programs require 82 votes in the Senate and 300 votes in the House. Didn’t you read the new rules of Congress?Report

          • Nob Akimoto Nob Akimoto says:

            …and yet you think it’s a grand intrusion of government against moral liberty for them to require insurance coverage of a certain sort…?

            …are you serious?Report

          • Avatar Murali says:

            Tom, these more invasive ultrasound procedures expose the embryo/blastocyst/foetus/baby to a higher intensity of soundwaves which can pose a risk to the foetus.


            This kind of stuff is not entirely non-problematic.


            • Avatar Tom Van Dyke says:

              Since the plan is to kill it anyway, Murali, that’s moot.Report

              • Avatar BSK says:

                It is entirely not moot.  If the idea is to save babies, the risk inherent to the procedure absolutely must be considered.  If the procedure kills two babies for every one that it saves, doesn’t that change the “moral calculus”?Report

              • Avatar sonmi451 says:

                Yup, this. I thought the whole purpose of the law is to make the women who are seeking abortion have second thoughts and decide to continue the pregnancy. Therefore, the risk to the fetus is absolutely an important consideration. Unless the real reason for the law isn’t so much to do about “saving babies’ ….. That’s part of it, sure, but I think there are other considerations as well to do with the women seeking abortion and what some people think these women deserve.Report

      • Avatar Infuriating Pedant says:

        Look up “coersion” in the the dictionary.   This is coersion.Report

  8. Avatar Tod Kelly says:

    This is going to be lost on, like, 95% of the folks who wander by, but I really want to throw out a kudos, Pat.

    Most places I can think of on the inter tubes, had they posted something the were misinformed about, would have doubled down when shown they were wrong.  (See, just off the top of my head, the vast preponderance of people who dropped by to crap on Mark about McNuggets.)  That you self-corrected, and did so as quickly as you did and showed your all work with the edit, is yet another reason that I am proud to work with you.Report

    • Avatar greginak says:

      I’ll second Tod’s kudo’s. Good on you for quickly correcting your error and owning up to it. A sadly rare thing in our times. It is also sadly common for people to double down on wrong bs and try to cloud an issue instead of just saying oops.Report

  9. Avatar JM says:

    I hereby propose the First Law of The LoOG, herein and forever to be known as the Thompson Non-Troversy Principle, or TNTP: “The greater the sense of personal outrage one feels upon reading a story, the more likely the story is to misrepresent the facts”

    Law not valid after the Wingularity, i.e., now.Report

  10. Avatar E.C. Gach says:

    Remind me not to leave my computer for long periods (read 10 minutes) next time.  Some quick book keeping.

    Let my earlier “good catch” be revised to: “good intention.”

    The bill is outragous, so much so that all the bluster it will invite would be better spent on a subject/topic that is more reasonably in dispute.

    In other news, the Thompson Principle still stands, if amended to be “when personally outraged by  a news story, step back for 10 seconds, do 5 minutes of research to “get the facts” and then proceed.”  As Patrick was intentionally misled, rather than intentionally misleading, I don’t think it stands as an exception.

    This is why I dare not tread into the complicated workings and postings of state legislatures.  They are purposefully made un-interpretable.

    My loathsome remarks about Think Progress still stand.

    And contrary to what people most people seem to think, I am and remain a bleeding heart liberal.  Just not an unthinking and uncharitable one (I hope!).Report

    • Avatar Jesse Ewiak says:

      In order to get an abortion, a woman has to get inserted vaginally despite the fact she doesn’t want too. If you changed the words from “doctor in an abortion” and “medical instrument” to “frat boy” and “finger”, it’d be rape. Why isn’t this?Report

      • Avatar Morat20 says:

        Rape is a legal thing. The Legislature writes the law. It’s not rape because the men that wrote the laws say it’s not — and mandate it.

        Pretty much the same reason spousal rape wasn’t rape for so long.

        Of course this whole thing is plainly unconstitutional and will get slapped down by the courts, and I’d like to be cynical enough to believe that the bulk of the idiots who voted for it knew it.

        It’s just theater, in the end. And everyone knows it.

        What gets me — really gets me — is that the guys pushing this think “Let’s make a law mandating doctors have to do this and women have to submit to it” was a winning political move.Report

        • Avatar Jesse Ewiak says:

          Oh, I realize it isn’t legally rape.

          Unfortunately, pretty much everywhere south of the Mason-Dixon and east of the Rocky, it is a vote-winner. The right has figured out that for the time being, they can’t go after RvW directly. But, by using Casey, they can put a ton of restrictions on things.Report

      • Avatar Brandon Berg says:

        For the same reason you don’t think taxation is robbery. It’s not forced on you. It’s just something you have to do if you want to have an abortion/make more than a subsistence income.Report

        • Avatar Brandon Berg says:

          Hey! I just realized that left-wing logic can be used to prove that a prostate exam is rape. When a man gets a prostate exam, it’s not because he enjoys having a finger inserted into his rectum–it’s because there’s a risk that if he doesn’t submit to this invasive procedure, he could die as a result. Ergo prostate exams, like low-wage jobs, are not genuinely consensual. Ergo rape!Report

          • Avatar Patrick Cahalan says:

            Er… no, Brandon.

            Just no.

            Now, if the prostate exam was *mandated* by the state, and somebody didn’t want one, you might have a leg to stand on…Report

          • Avatar Jesse Ewiak says:

            As Patrick said, if I had to get a couple-inch road inserted into me if I wanted to get a vasectomy, then you’d have a case. A prostate exam is as invasive as an obgyn doing a regular check up. This is a whole ‘nother thing.Report

            • Avatar Kelly says:

              Additionally, no one gets a prostate exam if a doctor feels it isn’t medically indicated, and no one is required to get one in order to obtain some other medical procedure or medication they feel they need.

              This VA law requires a transvaginal ultrasound (prior to about 12 weeks) regardless of whether the doctor feels there is any medical benefit to such a procedure.

              The prostate analogy would work if the VA law required women to get Pap smears in order to screen for cervical cancer.


            • Avatar Kelly says:

              P.S.  The ultrasound probe is longer than a couple-inches, by the way.Report

  11. Avatar Maxwell James says:

    So – now that the post has been corrected, I’ve got a question: Who’s paying for this?

    Ultrasounds may not be the most expensive procedure, but they do cost money, and this law would probably increase their incidence by a few thousand per year in Virginia. Is the VA legislature thus also voting to increase the effective price of abortions? Or is this going to be deficit-funded somehow? As I’m sure we can safely assume it will not be tax-funded.Report

  12. Nob Akimoto Nob Akimoto says:

    Pat, I have to say that I find both the mea culpa, and the fact that you kept the original text of your post there to be refreshing.Report

  13. Avatar Kyle Cupp says:

    I get the reasoning behind requirements/suggestions like this–if a woman sees what will be destroyed by an abortion, she may think twice and choose not to have the abortion.  I wonder, though, if the showing of an ultrasound is a good overall policy from the standpoint of the pro-life position.  On an individual basis, the choice against abortion based on an aesthetic response to an ultrasound image would be, for pro-lifers, a cause for celebration.  A life is saved.  However, given that the pro-life position is that human life begins at conception and that the moral value of the nascent life does not correspond to the degree it looks human, is it prudent policy to encourage a choice against abortion by presenting an image that one hopes will look sufficiently human?Report

    • Avatar BSK says:

      Perhaps we should requre the men operating our drones to Skype with the people inhabiting the cities we are bombing. That may save some innocent lives…

      Also, to me, Tom’s picture does not look like life. I might think otherwise if it was me and my lady, but an objective viewing of the picture does not change my position and does make me less sympathetic to pro-lifers who are showing it to me.Report

    • Avatar Tom Van Dyke says:

      Kyle, I gather from the internet that showing baby on the ultrasound works.  How much, what %age, I dunno.  But in a way it doesn’t matter.  “If we can save just one life” is the mantra in these things, and seems to be true here.


      • Avatar BlaiseP says:

        Perhaps, along the same lines of Saving a Life, we could have periodic home inspections to ensure children are being properly fed and clothed and cared for by their parents.   These might involve gynecological exams of little girls, to make sure they’re not being raped.  Funny how slippery the slope of the Nanny State becomes, especially when it’s your nanny goat.Report

        • Avatar Tom Van Dyke says:

          Rule: The slippery slope must be on the same planet.Report

          • Avatar BlaiseP says:

            Egypt’s fundamentalists aren’t above taking a look in some poor girl’s hoo-hoo either, just to see if anything’s amiss.    Rick Santorum sorta reminds me of those guys.Report

          • Avatar BSK says:

            James.  Too far.  Way too far.Report

            • Avatar James says:

              Oh? And I suppose he’s also not responsible for someone deleting two of my other comments here.

              And here we are after the LAST time one of the dishonest, lying “gentlemen” was running around deleting comments.

              When I said below that I often remark on how much photos of RAPEublicans remind me of artists’ conceptions of a neanderthal, it’s only because I was avoiding the point that Tom’s photo looks like a movie chimp from the 1950s wearing cheesy glasses.Report

              • Avatar Tod Kelly says:

                James, I need to ask you to back off of this line of argument. I will check the delete file, and if there is anything appropriate that was deleted we will put it back up.

                But more personal comments or accusing people here of being rapists like this and I will be the one to delete.Report

              • Avatar James says:

                Oh look ANOTHER one disappeared. And suddenly comments popping up down here too?

                I call it as I see it. TVD has no problem holding an extortionate position, demanding that a woman submit to the forceful shoving of “a dildo with a camera, wrapped in a condom, with cold gel on it shoved against the cervix” in order to obtain a LEGAL medical procedure.

                And the aforementioned forceful shoving of the dildo has NOTHING, medically, to do with the procedure to follow.

                I call that rape. I call TVD an apologist for rape. He’s a RAPEublican. You don’t like it? Delete me. Ban me. Prove how fucking hypocritical you losers really are.Report

              • Avatar BSK says:


                I think you are on to something by drawing comparisons between this procedure to rape.  If I were to tell a woman that I would only offer her a legal service my businesses provided if I could stick a dildo into her, I’m sure I’d be in violation of several laws.

                You may be on to something by pushing the supporters of this law to view it with the lens that that analogy creates for us.

                You are not on to something by throwing around words like “RAPublican”.  You are so far off of something as to discredit your whole line of thinking and what points you may have.Report

              • Avatar Tod Kelly says:

                James- that wasn’t Tom that deleted your pie hole comment, it was me… which I said I would do if you continued making those kinds is comments.

                Please refer to the site commenting policy. If you can follow those few rules you are most welcome to take any political position here you choose. If you can’t, know that comments that step over the line will be deleted. If you just can’t control yourself you may be banned; since we’ve only ever banned 2 or 3 people ever (can’t remember which) you would have the satisfaction of knowing that you were really in distinguished company, and we’d all move along with the rest of our lives.Report

              • Avatar sonmi451 says:

                You guys can delete comments on other frontpagers’ posts? That seems a bit, umm …. I’m not sure what’s the right word for it. But I guess if all the frontpagers are okay with it, that’s fine.Report

              • Avatar Kimmi says:

                What feels odd to me is that the guy who was hitting on me’s posts didn’t get deleted, but these did. Is that a doublestandard? If so, is it a good one?Report

              • Avatar Tod Kelly says:

                Sonmi – would you be as outraged if I had deleted a comment from some con whack job that had told a woman commenter she should be sexually assaulted? Or is this just a team thing?

                In any case, people who object should shoot an email to Mark or Erik.Report

              • Avatar sonmi451 says:

                I’m not outraged (did I sound outrage? I thought I sounded normal). It’s not the specific of the comments, or about being on the same “team”, I don’t even know what comments you deleted. It’s the general principle of being able to delete comments on other people’s post that I thought was a little weird. But then again, your blog, your policy, so I apologize for the intrusion.Report

              • Avatar sonmi451 says:

                And I’m not really into complaining to the big boss through email. I’ll say whatever I want to say here and that’s that.Report

              • Avatar BSK says:


                I am one of TVD’s biggest critics.  But what I saw you post was way overboard and deserved to be deleted.  Even this comment here, I feel, is over the line.  “RAPEublicans”?  Really?  If that is the best you can muster in terms of criticizing this measure and/or its proponents, this is not the site for you.  And, again, I am an ardent critic of TVD individually, his defense of this law, and the law itself.  But even I can see how egregious your line of thinking is here.Report

      • Avatar BSK says:

        So anything short of violence to save one life, Tom? Is that what you are saying?Report

    • Avatar Will Truman says:

      Kyle, I really don’t see much of a downside to ultrasounds (when they don’t involve involuntary penetration!). Contra BSK, I find the images (particularly after the first six weeks) to actually be quite compelling and I think most people do. If they don’t, there’s really little hope and it doesn’t change much. I doubt there are very many cases where one looks at an ultrasound and thinks “I expected it to look more human than that…”Report

      • Avatar BSK says:


        I’m sure my feeling is largely a result of A) not being aparent and B) having to watch a video of abortions from the inside and outside and their aftermaths as part of my CCD class when I was in 7th grade. True story.

        I often look at monkeys and remark how human they look. That particular picture doesn’t do it for me. But I’m just one guy.Report

  14. Avatar Jim Henley says:

    If you do think “violence” is an inappropriate way to oppose abortion, you should oppose the Virginia law, which mandates that doctors commit a violent act on some of their patients. From Maria at Crooked Timber, in a post on IVF, on her experiences with consensual transvaginal ultrasound:

    During IVF, women have frequent trans-vaginal ultrasounds to see how their ovarian follicles are developing and to measure the lining of the uterus. I have them two or three times a week. It was a big deal for me when I started as it’s basically a dildo with a camera in it, wrapped in a condom, smeared with very cold lubricant, pushing quite hard against the cervix. Towards the end of the cycle it’s quite painful. At any point along, it’s awkward. Even though I can now chat happily about the weather or point out a missed follicle on the screen, the nurse and doctor are still incredibly solicitous of my comfort. They do this scan every day but they appreciate it’s not a normal or comfortable situation for the person being scanned, and they act accordingly.

    I want to have these scans. They are getting me somewhere I want to be, and they are administered by professionals I know and trust and who are on part of that journey with me. I believe this invasive scan being forced on pregnant women seeking an abortion would be a violation of their bodies. As someone who gets this scan all the time, I truly cannot imagine the interaction in the room or the doctor/radiographer – patient relationship that would be involved in a woman unwillingly undergoing it from a professional intent on forcing her into something she doesn’t want.

    Note that in Maria’s case it is medically necessary that someone forcibly penetrate her with “a dildo with a camera in it, wrapped in a condom, smeared with very cold lubricant, pushing quite hard against the cervix.” It is not medically necessary to do this prior to an abortion.

    It compels the doctor to penetrate a woman’s vagina with a foreign object in a way the doctor need not do and would not do, if left to the dictates of her conscience.

    It compels a woman to accept another penetrating her vagina with a foreign object in a way she would not do, if left to the dictates of her conscience.

    It guarantees physical pain for the woman.

    It simply is a violent act against her.Report

  15. Avatar S Foster says:

    You are comparing a vaginal ultrasound to rape? If a woman is going in for an abortion, how do you think the embryo is going to be removed? Here is a quote from a site discussing the advantages of early abortion. (I did the bolding and italicizing of the already written text.)

    “The Aspiration Procedure is a non-surgical method ideal for ending early pregnancy. A speculum is inserted (like a pap smear) and a local anesthetic is applied. A thin, plastic tube about the size of a pencil is inserted through the natural opening of the cervix.”

    Do you not know that to get to the cervix, you have to go through the vagina? If a woman consents to an abortion, she is consenting for a doctor to do “bodily intrusion.”Report

    • Avatar Jim Henley says:

      So the distinction between welcome, medically indicated insertion and unwelcome, medically irrelevant insertion is lost on you, really?

      Also between a “thin, plastic tube about the size of a pencil” and “basically a dildo with a camera in it, wrapped in a condom, smeared with very cold lubricant, pushing quite hard against the cervix?”

      You might want to work on your empathic imagination.Report

    • Avatar Jim Henley says:

      If a woman consents to an abortion, she is consenting for a doctor to do “bodily intrusion.”

      This is an interesting theory, and I would like to know more about it!

      1. In your view, is there anything the state may NOT mandate shoving up a woman’s tw@t if she consents to an abortion?
      2. In your view, if a woman consents to an abortion, the state MAY MANDATE that a doctor must shove this particular thing up her tw@t, regardless of her own and the doctor’s feelings, right?
      3. Is there anything the state MAY NOT mandate a doctor shove up a woman’s tw@t, if she consents to an abortion?
      4. If so, if a woman consents to an abortion, may the state mandate that SOMEONE ELSE shove things up the woman’s tw@t, irregardless of her own will in the matter?
      5. May the state mandate “Before and After” tw@t shoves if a woman consents to an abortion, to provide her visual evidence of the consequence of her choice?


      • Avatar Tod Kelly says:

        Jim, I think you may be conflating separate issues.  Personally, I think the bill is disturbed, but I don’t know that I am sure that it qualifies as rape – and I’m not sure that declaring it rape is a wise road for feminists to go down.

        A friend of ours recently had concerns about the reproductive health of her teenage daughter, and because of that she made her go in for an exam that the daughter did  not want to undergo.  In fact, taking away certain privileges was the way she coerced her daughter into the exam, which was not merely superficial.  Was this good or ethical parenting?  I am not sure that I know, and being a guy that has only sons I’m not overly comfortable making loud declarations in either direction.  But it seems clear to me that this unwanted invasive exam was not “rape,” unless we want to greatly expand our definition of the word.

        And to make such a definitional expansion would be a huge mistake, politically, for women.  Rape – and here I refer to the more common definition of the word – remains a problem that our society does not deal with very well.  We still live in an era where if a woman is raped, the courts and public opinion make her very first responsibility to prove that it was neither her fault and nor that she “was asking” for it.  These things need to be changed in favor of women, and watering down the definition of the word “rape” does not help.  Rather, it gives those that might otherwise want to shirk off rape another excuse to do so.

        Does this mean that the Virginia law is not invasive, unethical an even morally reprehensible?  No.  It just means that “rape” may not be the correct word – just the most provocative one.Report

        • Avatar Kelly says:

          As of January, 2012, the legal definition of rape in the United States is: “The penetration, no matter how slight, of the vagina or anus with any body part or object, or oral penetration by a sex organ of another person, without the consent of the victim.”

          In both the case of state-mandated transvaginal ultrasounds and whatever happened to your friend’s poor daughter, there seems to be no question about the penetration aspect of the law; it’s just the “consent” part that’s tricker.

          Can a woman be said to consent to vaginal penetration if its her only option to get the abortion that will save her life?  Can a teenage girl whose safety and well-being depends on the support (financial and otherwise) of her parents be said to consent to forced vaginal penetration if her parents require it?  As someone with a vagina, I’d say no.  If you were required to allow a doctor to insert 4-8 inches of an ultrasound probe into your anus, rotating it here and there for a period of 5-15 minutes for absolutely no medical reason whatsoever, in order to obtain a medical procedure or medication you and your doctor felt you needed, what would you call that situation?  A situation in which you are freely giving your consent, or a situation in which your “consent” is pretty much 100% coercion?

          Finally, I would add one more question to Jim Henley’s:

          If a woman consents to allowing a doctor to insert a medical instrument (for example, a speculum during a routine yearly physical, or a vacuum tube for an abortion) into her vagina on one occasion, does that mean she gives up her ability to withold consent to allowing a doctor to insert other objects into her vagina on other occasions?  In other words, do you construe consenting to “bodily intrusion” on one occasion to mean consent to any other type of bodily intrusion on any other occasion?

          P.S.  Lots of women have abortions that don’t involve vaginal penetration of any kind.  A Guttmacher Institute survey of abortion providers estimated that medical abortions (produced by pharmaceuticals rather than performed with surgical instruments) accounted for 17% of all abortions and slightly over 25% of abortions before 9 weeks gestation in the United States in 2008.  Under this Virginia law, then, a fourteen-year-old virgin who is raped and becomes pregnant would have to submit to another unwanted vaginal penetration at the hands of her doctor in order to obtain a prescription for RU-486.


        • Avatar Kelly says:

          And by the way, it may have been clear to YOU that what your friend’s daughter went through wasn’t rape, but you’re not the one whose opinion matters.  Hers does, and definitions set out by federal and state laws which criminalize rape do.


  16. Avatar Jaybird says:

    Here’s my very silly question.

    I’ve always thought of the whole “ultrasound” being something where they put vaseline on your belly and pass something that looks like a vaccum cleaner attachment over it (no penetration involved). My silly question is whether the bill mandates a transvaginal ultrasound or if the (surely all male) legislators who voted for this thought that all they were mandating were the (non-penetrative) ultrasounds that they saw in the movies. Now, of course, I still oppose the mandate as a violation of privacy, etc, but my first thought when I read the bill was of the non-invasive ultrasound rather than the rapey one.

    So my question is whether a non-invasive ultrasound would meet the requirements of this bill.Report

    • Avatar Rtod says:

      That’s an excellent observation and question.Report

    • Avatar Jim Henley says:

      It’s been noted in various places that:

      Most abortions happen prior to 12 weeks. (Which, BTW, is the first trimester. Not even the second.)

      Prior to 12 weeks, only invasive ultrasounds will actually show the fetus.

      Therefore, the law mandates invasive ultrasounds for women less than 12 weeks pregnant.

      Given that female legislators and IIRC doctor-legislators argued passionately against this bill during deliberations, I can’t believe VA reps passed the law and the governor promised to sign the law in ignorance of its implications. But if they somehow managed to be that ignorant that long, they are still culpable.Report

      • Avatar Tod Kelly says:

        It appears that at least the person who wrote the bill was well informed, and that doing a jelly-on-the-tummy ultrasound would not satisfy the law.  Here s the actual language from the bill:

        B. Except in the case of a medical emergency, at least 2 hours before the performance of an abortion a qualified medical professional trained in sonography and working under the direct supervision of a physician licensed in the Commonwealth shall perform fetal ultrasound imaging and auscultation of fetal heart tone services on the patient undergoing the abortion for the purpose of determining gestational age. The ultrasound image shall be made pursuant to standard medical practice in the community, contain the dimensions of the fetus, and accurately portray the presence of external members and internal organs of the fetus, if present or viewable. Determination of gestational age shall be based upon measurement of the fetus in a manner consistent with standard medical practice in the community in determining gestational age. When only the gestational sac is visible during ultrasound imaging, gestational age may be based upon measurement of the gestational sac. A print of the ultrasound image shall be made to document the measurements that have been taken to determine the gestational age of the fetus.


      • Avatar Kolohe says:

        I can’t believe VA reps passed the law and the governor promised to sign the law in ignorance of its implications

        I can quite easily believe they passed the law in ignorance of its implications because legislatures at any and all levels do it *all the time*.Report

  17. Avatar MFarmer says:

    I haven’t read all the comments, for sanity’s sake, but has anyone realized this is why we don’t want government controlling healthcare, and that this is one of the best examples of why to repeal Obamacare that I’ve seen lately. Has anyone come to this realization that hadn’t realized it before?Report

    • Avatar BlaiseP says:

      Wut?  You’d prefer unregulated medicine?  Please tell me such isn’t your wish.Report

      • Avatar Jaybird says:

        If only there were a third option…Report

        • Avatar BlaiseP says:

          There friggin’ isn’t.   This is what I find so repulsive about this line of argument:  the relentless, jejeune idiocy of demonizing Da Gummint as if it shouldn’t have regulatory powers.Report

          • Avatar Jaybird says:

            So that’s it? Obamacare or anarchy?

            From what I recall of 2005, it wasn’t *THAT* bad…Report

            • Avatar BlaiseP says:

              Hark, I hear the patter of li’l  feet in walkback mode.   There is no third way.   Government ought to regulate health and safety standards.   I’ve worked with State of Georgia on a system for certifying and decertifying medical personnel.

              Blanket statements about how Gummint Shouldn’t Regulate Health Care shall be pulled off the bed to reveal lazy thinking hiding under that blanket.   All those hooey about Government Oppressin’ Folks by making them participate in their own health care is silly talk, the sort of thing we’d expect from hormonal teenagers ragin’ about Tyrannical Ol’ Dad making them get a job and buy their own car insurance before he’ll let them drive the Family Chariot.   It’s stupid.   It’s juvenile.   Unless we want our pharmacists and doctors and dentists and every other person who dispenses prescription drugs to be lumped in with the Albanian jamokes who send out emails for Viagra or the assholes who put out Vioxx and Thalidomide and dozens of other nostrums of that sort, knowing they were unsafe drugs, it seems to me we’re best served to keep this Private Sector Regulation confined to the same pen with the quacks.   They don’t understand the problem.Report

              • Avatar MFarmer says:

                You only understand the problem through the lens of government regulation, although I can show just as many cases where government regulation failed and killed many people.  Whoops, you are wrong again. Again!Report

              • Avatar MFarmer says:

                Now, a dutiful moderate will come along and say both sides are wrong, that it takes both the government and the private sector efforts and watchdogs — the problem is as long as government has the power, it will run off all competition and have its way.Report

              • Avatar BlaiseP says:

                I know more than a few things about how CMS and JCAHO do business.   JCAHO’s got about seventeen separate systems, none of which talk to each other.  They specialize to covering up everything.  They grant all sorts of exemptions. They’re in the pockets of Big Healthcare.

                I’ve specialized to failed systems.   I’m the guy you call when you’ve spent a few million on some cockamamie software package that won’t work as advertised and you need someone with actual health care information systems and statistics experience.   I’ve seen this problem from inside Pfizer, six franchises of a major health insurer, Medicare, Tricare, hospital systems, health care transport, state MD and RN accreditation, pharma regulatory and process chemistry labs.   This is what I know.   The situation is worse than you could possibly imagine.Report

      • Avatar MFarmer says:

        It’s just like a statist to jump from government shouldn’t control healthcare to healthcare being unregulated. I mean, if the government is not involved with it’s incompetent and perverted incentives, there can be no regulation, right?

         This is why people need to be educated on private sector regulation — they’ve become brainwashed into thinking government has to control everything or the jungle will appear and dangerous wild animals will devour them.Report

        • Avatar BlaiseP says:

          (scratches head)  Private sector regulation?  That’s a contradiction in terms and you know it.  Try again.Report

          • Avatar MFarmer says:

            No, I know that private sector regulation is possible, and it happens all the time, and would happen more often and more effectively if government would get out of the way — You start over and think this time.Report

            • Avatar BlaiseP says:

              It goddamn well isn’t.   Government gets in the way of all sorts of Free Market Nonsense.   Fire all the health inspectors and deregulate the market for medication and you’ll see what happens all right.Report

              • Avatar MFarmer says:

                It goddamn well is. Fire all the health inspectors and deregulate the market for medication and you’ll see what happens all right.Report

              • Avatar BlaiseP says:

                ROFL.   Can you say “Thalidomide”?    I’m done with you.Report

              • Avatar MFarmer says:

                What is it with you people, when you lose an argument you are “done” with your opponent?Report

              • Avatar Kimmi says:

                How much are people worth to you, MFarmer? Name a dollar. Now, name another dollar amount, on exactly how much people are worth to you, if you can potentially blame other factors (say 50/50).

                Corps know all such numbers, and they all fall into their calculations.

                Corps control the news, and as such, have less to worry about poisoning people. The story of the world is how corps cover up problems, deaths…

                Perhaps you can have “voluntary certs”… but the person offering the lowest price isn’t in the cert — and he’s the one killing people. Not enough to get run out of town, mostly, but enough…

                Do you know the riddle of the fire escape? Look up why we’ve got them…. All laws exist for reasons, but consumer protection ones tend to have really flagrant reasons, mostly.Report

              • Avatar James says:

                It’s not losing an argument. It’s realizing that participating in the argument is like trying to train a blind, deaf 15-year-old dog not to lick its own genitals.

                You can try and try and try, but the pooch simply lacks the ability to perceive anything of an argument and is too dumb to assimilate anything contrary to its own position anyways.Report

            • Avatar Kimmi says:

              NSF is not the appropriate way to regulate health care. It may be the appropriate way to regulate normal electrical devices, but health care devices have a whole new ball game, and for Good Reason.

              I could build a “breathing analyzer” (depth of breath, frequency, etc). But I couldn’t dare use it on a patient/researcher/Anyone.Report

    • Avatar Tod Kelly says:

      This is a good point that had not occurred to me, and one that’s sort of counter intuitive.

      I’d bet that the vast preponderance of people that support this bill are anti-Obamacare, and vice versa.Report

      • Avatar MFarmer says:

        Yes, Tod, the Right and Left are confused over issues of liberty. Very confused.Report

        • Avatar BlaiseP says:

          Heh.  Is your idea of Liberty the sale of fake medicine and quack doctoring?Report

          • Avatar MFarmer says:

            No, it’s not, Why do you ask?Report

            • Avatar BlaiseP says:

              Because that’s exactly what you’re saying, Farmer.    Who’s going to inspect the markets for rotten meat and the hospitals for sanitary conditions and medication for safe dosages?   This is where the wheels completely fall off your argument.Report

              • Avatar MFarmer says:

                I guess no private company, like say something we could call JCAHO, can regulate hospitals? Although, now, new laws have intervened in JCAHO’s authority so that government can have full control — now we’ll see your world.Report

              • Avatar MFarmer says:

                I forgot to say godammit to intimidate you and show how right I am.Report

              • Avatar BlaiseP says:

                I’ve worked at JCAHO.   It’s a bad joke.Report

              • Avatar MFarmer says:

                Of course you have, in between being a NINJA,  CIA operative and a missionary in the Congo. You’ve been everything from what I can tell from your blustering. But, I have acutally been on the receiving end of JCAHO and know that they aren’t a joke but an effective regulatory company. I went through their process many times over 15 years, both inpatient and out-patient facilities.Report

              • Avatar BlaiseP says:

                So, you’ve been through a JCAHO inspection and still think Private Regulation is the way to go?   Wonder what your M&M and sentinel data looks like?

                Oh, that’s right, JCAHO won’t release that data.    Whew, for a minute, I thought we might be talking about actual regulation and not an expensive exercise in coverin’ shit up.Report

              • Avatar MFarmer says:

                Google is your friend, heh, Blaise?Report

              • Avatar BlaiseP says:

                This is my bread and butter, Farmer.    Heh.   Eet eez to larf.   I’ve been parsing medical EDI long enough to have seen it coming out of line printers.   Nice efficient file format.    Gave me my start in AI, learning to apply rules to it.   Put three kids through college on the strength of that experience.

                Now be nice.   You and I both know JCAHO isn’t the solution.   It’s part of the problem, just like half the private agencies I’ve dealt with who furnish the analytical data for regulatory bodies.   It’s a racket and we both know it.   Only difference between us is this:  I made a living from making that stuff work to anyone’s benefit.


              • Avatar sonmi451 says:

                So, I guess the conservative point isn’t that regulations are bad, they’re just bad when ther government enforces them. But if you let a private, for-profit company do it, then it’s all fine and dandy? Because ……Report

              • Avatar MFarmer says:


                The industry welcomes the oversight, so that they can  show the public that inspections have been done. We also had to go through state inspections — now, they were a joke. With JCAHO, there were professionals who knew the industry and treatment methods, what we went through, etc, so their questions and recommendations were pertinent. We weren’t coerced by JCAHO to undergo inspections, and we could choose another organization, yet the state inspections were forced, done by people who didn’t understand what we did, so they would attack areas that weren’t pertinent, like when new managament would come in and not understand the treatment methods or much else, so they would change forms, or add new forms, to act like they were doing something helpful. The idea, though, is that competition in the private sector to provide oversight will be more effective than coercive, politically motivated regulations from government. First we have to have true economic freedom, then businesses, in an attempt to assure consumers of quality will be amenable to private oversight, and the competition among oversight/regulation companies will keep them  honest- the big difference is that the oversight companies can only withhold their approval, not write regulations to enforce change, then the public has to decide. If laws are broken, such as fraud, then of course government would step in, but in general the economic decisions are left up to free people making free, informed decisions. there will be all kinds of innovation in the private sector to ensure consumers are armed with information. the internet has made transparency a high value.Report

              • Avatar sonmi451 says:

                So basically the industry pays for these oversight/inspection by private, for-profit oversight companies themselves, right? The private, for-profit oversight companies are paid BY the industry to regulate the industry,, and there are competition between various private, for-profit oversight companies themselves to sign up customers to inspect.  Am I getting the gist of it right so far? What’s to prevent the industry from preferring a certain private, for-profit oversight company, that, shall we say, is less than rigorous in its oversight method? If they have to pay an extra thousand or two to get inspected by a more “lenient” oversight company, instead of spending a lot more money to make the necessary improvement, why wouldn’t they?


              • Avatar greginak says:

                I’ve been through JCAHO an COA certification. They weren’t terrible and did verify some worthy things. They did drift a bit into Dilbert territory in that they often didn’t seem to care if our processes were stupid as long as they were documented and followed, but i suspect that is always a weakness of outside evaluators. However with both these groups there were consultants who were more then willing to look us over, tell us where we would likely fail then gladly accept our money to help us pass inspections with the groups they were affiliated with. Of course by the time the cert board came we were bound to pass since we had been essentially paying them to coach us up so we could pass. These groups have something to offer but they are not accountable to people and their interest is in themselves.Report

              • Avatar sonmi451 says:

                In fact, that could be a business model for the more enterprising oversight companies – hey, our fees might be higher, but we ensure a higher rating/compliance rate/whatever the jargon is, compared to other oversight companies (hint, hint, wink, wink!).Report

              • Avatar Tod Kelly says:

                Without potential liabilities from governmental regulatory bodies, does it necessarily make sense for JCAHOs in various industries?

                Also, there’s a lot of talk in this thread about someone stepping in if someone does something illegal. In a non-statist system, what kinds of things do you envision being illegal? Outright theft, obviously. But what about those things such as trade secrets? Can you pilfer those, or does the state protect an organization’s ideas? If a company’s actions put an employee at risk, is that illegal?Report

              • Avatar BlaiseP says:

                JCAHO is a wonderfully profitable racket.   Unlike the county health inspector, who just might drop into your restaurant unannounced to take a few swabs and make sure the meat’s below the veg in your coolers, JCAHO is much akin to an IG inspection in the military.   Everyone knows it’s coming.   The first sergeant goes over everything beforehand to ensure all the screwups are conveniently beyond the reach of the inspectors.  Nobody fails an IG inspection unless they’re really screwed up and nobody fails a JCAHO “surprise!” inspection unless they’re too stupid to stand upright and not spit on the floor.

                It’s a colossal sham.   JCAHO releases no data and has ensured what they collect isn’t subject to discovery motions.   It’s a bad hospital’s best friend.   Just because you fail a JCAHO inspection doesn’t mean you have to close your doors.   Far from it, you can go on being “inspected” until you do pass.   And you’re only inspected every three years.Report

              • Avatar BlaiseP says:

                Here’s what’s needed:   more internal regulation and less sham inspecting.   If a medical facility is well-run, they’ve got their own quality control in place, usually some sort of XO to the Head of Nursing.   Weekly M&M conferences are where errors are first identified and I know of no hospital which doesn’t have them.

                The problem arises within hospital administration.   Naturally, they don’t want bad news to travel far because of liability.   Medicine isn’t a perfect science.   People die.   Even the best health care professionals aren’t perfect and we can’t expect them to be.   But you can’t learn from what you’ve covered up.

                What we can expect is competence and oversight and some measure of accountability.   Were it within my power, I’d put more responsibility in the hands of the RN and less on the MD.   The current hospital hierarchies are woefully out of synch with the times.Report

  18. Avatar greginak says:

    Dateline Virginia: This would need another thread to discuss but it should be good grist for the mill.

    From well known commie Doug Mataconis at OTB.


  19. Avatar BSK says:

    Does the woman have to look at the ultrasound?  Could she go in with her eyes closed?  Would they pry them open?  What if she’s blind?  WIll the doctor make a clay model of the fetus for her to hold and feel?

    To those who’ve read and understand the bill, what EXACTLY does it require of the woman? Ya know, besides having a giant tube stuffed up her vagina….Report

  20. Avatar Jaybird says:

    I, myself, prefer the whole “this comment was deleted by (this guy) because it didn’t meet our commenting policy” replacing the comment in question to deletion. Maybe disemvoweling with a similar disclaimer… or rot13ing with a similar disclaimer.Report