Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Virginia's Bob McDonnell approves revised abortion bill... women won't be shafted by the state?

This morning, I read about Virginia Governor Bob McDonnell's decision to require that a Virginia abortion bill be revised.  The bill, which proposes to require women seeking an abortion to have an ultrasound, would have forced those whose pregnancies were too early to pick up a fetal heartbeat on an abdominal ultrasound to have an intravaginal ultrasound.  Basically, what this would have meant is that women who responsibly decided to have their abortions very early would be forced to endure having their vaginas invaded by a probe.  Fortunately, the outcry from women's rights organizations cowed the governor into asking for the bill to be revised.  Now the intravaginal ultrasound would not be required, just offered.  The only exception would be for pregnant women who were raped or incest victims and had reported the crime to the police.

I am a Virginia native and am well aware that my state has some rather odd and oppressive laws, particularly when it comes to gay rights and capital punishment.  I have never been pregnant and probably would never have an abortion if I did get pregnant.  I think abortion is repugnant.  However, I also think forcing women to be pregnant is repugnant.

We live in a country where millions of people have no health insurance and can't afford basic medical care, let alone the care pregnancy requires.  Moreover, we can't force pregnant women to take care of themselves.  So even if this law reduced the number of abortions, it might raise the cost of caring for these women who have had unintended pregnancies as well as the children that result from them.

I also think that the decision whether or not to have an abortion should be entirely up to the woman.  While I understand that men play a significant part in reproduction, once they've done their part, it's up to the woman to carry the child.  She puts her health and perhaps even her life on the line.  When the baby is born, 9 times out of 10, she's the one who takes care of the baby.  And again, we can't force a woman to take care of herself.  So if she decides to have an abortion, which for many women will be a very stressful, humiliating, and shameful decision, why should the government heap more shame on her by forcing her to have an ultrasound?  And who is going to pay for these enforced ultrasounds?  Some of these women who have abortions are doing so because they can't afford to have a baby and can't bear the idea of giving one up for adoption.

Here's another fact.  Until recently, a lot of health insurance plans either did not cover birth control or required a co-pay.  The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services recently passed guidelines that would require health insurers to cover birth control without a co-pay and voluntary sterilization, but those guidelines don't go into effect until August 2012.  And religious organizations offering health insurance will have the right to make an exception to this new rule.  Granted, pregnancy is not a "disease", but it is a condition that can lead to disease or death, even as it also leads to new life.  Forcing health insurers to pay for birth control and voluntary sterilizations will cost money, but I doubt it will cost more money than taking care of pregnant women will, especially if the woman is pregnant against her will.

I worry about back alley abortions.  I think as long as abortions are safe and legal in this country, most women will seek having them done by qualified healthcare professionals.  But what about those who can't bear the shame of having an abortion?  What about those who resent having a very private decision intruded upon by the government?  When abortions were illegal, women still got them.  They just did it illegally and oftentimes unsafely.

And finally, while I'm all for personal responsibility, I also know that a lot of people don't practice it.  People who do not practice personal responsibility have no business being parents.  A child is not a tool to force people to "grow up" or learn how to practice personal responsibility.  While I applaud those who give up their babies for adoption, again, that is a very personal choice that isn't for everyone.  Yes, there are a lot of people who would like to adopt an infant, but quite a few of them aren't as eager to adopt the babies that have medical problems or don't look like them.

Like I said, I probably will never be pregnant and that means I will never have an abortion.  But I support the right of other women to have an early term abortion if they wish to have one.  I don't think the government has any business being in a woman's uterus.  The fact that Governor McDonnell wised up and removed the vaginal probe requirement from the proposed abortion bill in Virginia is a step in the right direction.  At least Virginia women who wish to terminate their pregnancies can avoid being literally shafted by the state...  

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