On Wednesday, February 9, 2011, the Senate State Affairs Committee heard testimony on Senate Bill 16. Video of the hearings are available on line. Part 1 is here and Part 2 is here. Senator Dan Patrick’s legislation would improve the 2003 law, the Woman’s Right to Know Act, and introduce the requirement that the doctor who performs the abortion perform an ultrasound at least 24 hours before the abortion describe what he finds and offer the woman the opportunity to see and hear her unborn child.
Senator Leticia Van De Putte, a pharmacist and Democrat from Senate District 26 in San Antonio, opposes the Bill. She made a huge point that women would be captive audiences during the description of the Ultrasound. She graphically described the moments on the exam table, telling the mostly male State Affairs Committee that they couldn’t understand “having your bottom on the cold table” for the exam. Someone needs to ask her whether, if the ultrasound makes the woman feel that helpless, intimidated, and vulnerable, wouldn’t the actual procedure be much, much worse, since she would be naked except for a paper gown and an IV, and possibly sedated?
Unfortunately, we heard testimony that, at the abortionists’ clinics, the ultrasound (US) is only performed after a fee is paid, after the woman or girl is undressed, and in the prep or procedure room. Some who oppose the Bill told us that women are allowed to see the US, but we heard testimony from women who have had abortions and from a former clinic manager for Planned Parenthood that they were refused and one woman was even sedated so that she couldn’t look at the US as she wished.
The Pediatrician/Adolescent Medicine doctor who is the medical director of the Austin area Planned Parenthood, complained that the Bill would interfere in the physician-patient relationship. Dr. Mikail Love, an OB in private practice in Austin, and I both testified that the ultrasound would be an excellent tool for education. Dr. Love said that the Texas Medical Association, the American Medical Association, and the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists all encourage the doctor to be involved in a conversation with the patient, rather than to delegate the consent process to someone else. I explained that, in my opinion, SB 16 can only be said to interfere between the patient and doctor if the doctor has an aversion to explaining exactly what is going on in the woman or girl’s body and what he plans to do.
Although some opponents testified that the US is “unnecessary,” we heard testimony that the ultrasound is standard of care prior to an abortion, and I‘m sure that it is. It aids in determining gestational age (after all, the abortionist is paid more for later abortions). It also helps in guiding the use of instruments, in order to avoid puncturing the uterus.
I testified that it would be bad medicine NOT to do the ultrasound for any introduction of instruments into the uterus or using medicines to perform an abortion. I explained that ultrasounds are, in practice, non invasive, small, portable, – about the size of my iPad – and in just about in every office, ER, and even in most pregnancy assistance centers.
I pointed out that the suggestion that women and girls are too fragile or would be wounded by the ultrasound is the worst sort of patronization: the idea that the doctor knows best. Women have long fought for the right to meet our doctors fully clothed, to own our medical information in order to make our own decisions and direct our own care. Natural childbirth without sedation or restraints and breast feeding were subjected to obstruction due to the patronizing attitude that we are too fragile or incompetent to benefit from full, informed consent. In fact, we were victims of those docs’ prejudices and what we wanted sometimes cost more time and money – or put a glitch in their routine.
(I was even taught in Medical school that the opening to the womb, the cervix, is insensitive to pain and some instructors argued that I didn’t have to learn to numb the area for a biopsy. Every woman who has delivered a child knows exactly what it feels like when the cervix is being stretched.)
This sort of patronization is the reason that Texas now has laws mandating specific, special informed consent for other permanent, irreversible procedures such as hysterectomy and sterilizations. Our State has similar informed consent processes for radiation therapy and electric shock therapy.
We aren’t discussing truly private acts. Our State of Texas has determined that we will regulate medical practices, medicines, and license doctors and abortion facilities. These regulations are very public, not private. These regulations are the business of every citizen of Texas.
We recently had an example of the worst of unrestrained snd unmonitored abortionists — Kermit Gosnell and his staff in Pennsylvania have demonstrated what happens when abortion is considered “too sensitive.” for regulation and compartmentalized, treated differently from every other type of medicine regulated by the State. Gosnell has been officially charged with the murder of one woman and of using scissors to cut the spinal cord of at least six live born term or near-term babies (grand jury testimony indicates hundreds were routinely killed after being born alive).
I admitted that, yes, we would like every woman and girl to change her mind when she sees her baby and hears his heart beat. However, even if she goes through with the abortion, our regulations should ensure that she has complete informed consent. She should be treated as an independent adult who owns her medical information and makes her own decisions.