It seems that women can’t go a day without someone trying to violate their reproductive rights and their rights to their bodies. As of late, this is especially true when they live in Wisconsin and Scott Walker is calling the shots. He just won’t stop proposing laws and regulations, specifically on abortion. In my opinion, it likely has something to do the fact that he’s officially entered the 2016 presidential race and these kinds of laws are going to be seen as successes to Republican voters. Let’s take a look at what exactly this could mean for the future of abortions in the country if the 2016 election goes a certain way.
The first of the new laws regarding abortion is that there would be a ban on all abortions after 20 weeks. According to MSNBC’s report of the law, 20 weeks is the point at which anti-choicers claim fetuses can feel pain, though the same article says that doctors disagree with this statement. 99 physicians in the Wisconsin chapter of the American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists have actually urged policymakers to reject this proposal because the scientific community has found that fetuses cannot feel pain at this stage. However, the thing that I find to be so extremely problematic about this law is that it specifically states that exceptions will not be made for instances of rape or incest. There is only one exception, and that is when the woman’s life is in danger. While that’s important, you could say that forcing a woman to have a child that was conceived through such a traumatic experience could be risking her life all the same. To make things all the more scary, it appears as though there was a time when, if women wanted to abort a pregnancy that resulted from rape, they would be required to report the crime to the police in order to be exempt. Thankfully, some sensible individuals in the House of Representatives were able to see that the language was outrageous and helped to get that portion of the bill cut. However, just the thought that anyone, especially people with that much power, considered this to be a remotely good idea is terrifying enough.
Moving onto the second atrocity of an abortion law, this one states that women who are going to the doctor seeking an abortion will be required to undergo an ultrasound. In this case, women are being forced into a completely unnecessary and possibly invasive medical procedure. While Walker speaks about the bill as though it allows woman a choice of whether they would like to undergo a transvaginal or transabdominal ultrasound, this statement is somewhat misleading. They may have a choice in theory, but in very early pregnancy, often only the invasive transvaginal ultrasound can detect much of significance. These procedures are performed by forcibly inserting a wand into a women’s vagina. I can imagine that while this would likely be somewhat uncomfortable for most women, it could be horribly triggering for women who have been raped. Someone please tell me how that could possibly be a good idea? Considering the fact 89% of abortions are carried out within the first 12 weeks, that doesn’t seem to leave much choice on what kind of ultrasound to undergo. After this ultrasound, the healthcare professional is required to show the woman the image (again, something that could possibly be triggering and traumatic), as well as describe it to them. One Jezebel article compares this to the “fingernails” scene from the 2007 film Juno, something that I find to be completely valid.
In addition to a required ultrasound, Wisconsin also requires that women receive state directed counseling that is meant to discourage women from getting an abortion. There is then a 24-hour waiting period before the person will be able to go through with the abortion, just another way for anti-choicers to try to limit a woman’s choice.
While there are a number of reasons lawmakers may be against abortion and may support these rather terrible laws, one of the major reasons they claim is because they feel women may regret their choice to go through with the abortion in the future. However, a study done through the University of California San Francisco found that 95% of women who go through with abortions do not regret their decision. Regardless of what society conditions us to think, abortions aren’t some kind of ghost that hangs over women. The main reason for this is that they know that at the end of the day, they did what was best for themselves and their families. It doesn’t seem that emotional damage is done when women are making the choice to get an abortion on their own accord. The problems lie elsewhere. For example, a woman is more likely to regret an abortion when their partner is unsupportive in their choice to do so, even if the abortion may be the best thing for her to do. The more stigmas they experience around their decision, the more likely they are to question it. Also, the aforementioned study found that it’s misleading for anti-choicers to suggest that duration of a pregnancy changes a woman’s feelings about her decision. Positive and negative emotions about the procedure subside over time; there’s no significant difference between people who choose to abort a pregnancy earlier or further along. Finally, women regret all kinds of other decisions in their lives, not just abortions. This can be applicable to not only other medical decisions, but to other life altering decisions like marriage and employment choices. So Mr. Walker, does that mean you’d like to make laws limiting these kinds of decisions as well?
We’ve found that women are perfectly capable of making their own decisions. The sad truth is that abortions are going to happen no matter what the laws are. However, by making these kinds of restrictions on women’s health, we’re just opening the door for more dangerous and potentially life-threatening abortions. Do we have to go back to the days when women needed to carry out abortions with coat hangers? I sure as hell hope not. You wouldn’t think that the 2016 election would be a scary time to be a woman in the United States, but unfortunately here we are. That’s why we have to stay vigilant and educated about the choices made by Scott Walker and other politicians and their stances on women’s rights.