Simon Williamson

If you can't beat 'em, hurt 'em

2012-02-03 10:20

Two significant things happened in the Virginia state legislature recently.
Firstly, the state decided to follow the truly conservative states, such as Texas, by attaching a whole lot of excess and unnecessary conditions and medical procedures to a woman being permitted to terminate a pregnancy. Virginian lawmakers want a pregnant woman to undergo an ultrasound, be forced to listen to the foetus’ heartbeat, fill out superfluous paperwork and then wait 24 hours before she is permitted to terminate.
Now, people seem to be under the impression that women who live in countries where abortion is legal go out on Saturday evenings, shag the entire bar they’re in and just pop over to the anti-Jesus free clinic on Monday morning to have their wombs vacuumed out. Aborting is actually an already fraught process with an immense emotional attachment - forcing women to undergo even more stress is sordid. Many women have undergone immense pain before coming to this decision, and to rub their noses in it is abhorrent.
Supporters justify these laws by claiming that a woman might change her mind if faced with this torturous process. The implication is, therefore, that women who make the decision to terminate their pregnancy haven’t thought about it, and that they need to be degraded in this fashion in order to kick their pretty little brains into gear. This assumes that women who undergo this procedure are thoughtless. It throws no bone to women who are terminating their pregnancy regretfully. These Virginia laws also make no exceptions for women who are pregnant because of rape or incest.
Just incidentally, let’s see who makes up the legislature: the Virginia House of Delegates, the state’s lower chamber has 100 members, 84 of whom are men and 16 of whom are women. The upper house, or Senate, has 40 members, 34 men and 16 women. So in total, Virginia has 140 lawmakers - 84% of whom are not capable of becoming pregnant. Ever.
Pro-life opponents of abortion have rallied behind these laws, which surprises me. Attaching conditions to abortion is NOT a pro-life stance. It is nothing more than a manner of punishing a woman. And then forcing her to pay through her nose for all this unnecessary flapping around. The pregnancy is terminated in the end. Horrible process or not. There is nothing pro-life about it. In my understanding, real pro-life activists actually want the foetus to survive.
The second major event in the Virginia Senate was women fighting back. Senator Janet Howell attached an amendment to the bill, which would force men to undergo rectal exams and cardiac stress tests before they were given medication to treat erectile dysfunction. This is for the sole reason that it is unfair for women to be the only half of the population to have to undergo excess medical procedures at nothing more than lawmakers’ whims. This amendment, unsurprisingly, was soon voted down by 21 votes to 19.
While Howell knew her addition was unlikely to pass through a vote, it was the clearest explanation she could make over just how ridiculous the proposed laws are.
While I tend to often disagree with pro-life advocates, I am prepared to respect and debate them. I think a limit on how late termination can take place is an argument worth having. The use of different medical technologies on how not to stress a woman's body should also be discussed.
But I will not respect those who wish to punish a woman, think she is too stupid to know what she is doing, and will only permit the right for her to make her own decision if she jumps through arbitrarily placed hoops.

Simon Williamson is a freelance writer.

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