Women Deserve Full & Accurate Info Except When They Don’t

Women Deserve Full & Accurate Info Except When They Don’t

Imagine that in order to get a vasectomy, you must agree to have a needle inserted into your testes to extract sperm, which is then photographed and shown to you. You may either view the photo or hear it described to you in detail.

You are told this is to empower you, because then you will have more information about the health of your reproductive system, which could be used to produce many children.

Now imagine that in addition to that, your doctor has the right to withhold information about anything he finds in the course of his exam, like a deadly STD. This is because if you knew you had a deadly STD, you’d be much less likely to want to reproduce.

It makes sense, doesn’t it? On the one hand, your doctor forces you to hear information you do not think you need to know. On the other hand, your doctor withholds information you would very much like to know. Welcome to America!

This is the closest analogy I could create for the absolutely horrific and contradictory bills that are being approved by state legislatures left and right. It was a full year ago that I began telling skeptic and secular audiences about the Religious Right’s War on Women, and I’m sad to say that all those awful bills I listed are actually passing. One of the worst has been the ultrasound bill, which back then was only on the table in Texas and has just today become a law in Virgina. The law forces women to have an ultrasound before she can have an abortion. Originally it had to be a wand shoved inside her vagina, but it was pointed out to Republicans that they would at last be quite literally approving State-mandated rape, so now women may choose to have an abdominal ultrasound instead. Here’s what Virginia Governor Bob McDonnell had to say about it (bolding mine):

Women have a right to know all the available medical and legal information surrounding the abortion decision before giving legally effective informed consent. Informed consent is already required prior to an abortion being performed in Virginia, based on the longstanding health care concept that complete information about a medical procedure must be given to a patient before she can freely consent to a procedure. As difficult as an abortion decision is, the information provided by ultrasounds, along with other information given by the doctor pursuant to current law and prevailing medical practice, can help the mother make a fully informed decision.

Meanwhile, the GOP in Arizona has just passed a bill (SB 1359) that gives doctors the right to withhold important medical information from a woman if he thinks that information might result in her wanting an abortion.

With rare exceptions, ectopic pregnancies are not viable anyway, but Republicans are allowing anti-abortion doctors to keep life threatening information from pregnant women all because they are obsessed with stopping any and all abortions. Women may not know they have a life threatening condition until they die on the emergency room table. And the doctor couldn’t be sued.

You know what other type of bill they’ve passed in Arizona? If you guessed “an informed consent about abortion” bill, give yourself a treat!

Everyone deserves full and accurate information before undergoing any medical procedure,” said Deborah Sheasby, legal counsel for the Center for Arizona Policy. “These types of protections have been repeatedly upheld and are overwhelmingly supported by the public.

Guess what other bill the Center for Arizona Policy supported? If you guessed SB 1359, the one that lets doctors withhold full and accurate information from women, give yourself another treat! You deserve it.

I don’t yet see an official statement about the SB 1359 victory from the Center for Arizona Policy, so I’ll write one for them:

“Everyone deserves full and accurate information before undergoing any medical procedure, except for sluts! They’ll take whatever information we give them and like it,” said Deborah Sheasby of the Center for Arizona Policy, who then disappeared in a puff of sulphur and flames.

See how it all makes sense? More information is good. Less information is also good. Whatever does most to inhibit a woman’s ability to make decisions about her own body. This is piss-poor policy making that will result in more women dying, and why? Because the Religious Right insists that an embryo – a fertilized egg – has more rights than the woman whose body it is inhabiting.

EDIT: I almost forgot – HAPPY INTERNATIONAL WOMEN’S DAY.

EDIT 2 (3/9): @IAmNidocking points out that the bill’s fourth section includes language that suggests doctors will not be protected if their action or omission is intentional or grossly negligent. Because the anti-choice lobby is pushing this bill hard, I’m not ready to relax yet. We’ve seen other attempts by anti-choicers to take a cue from the creationists’ wedge strategy, introducing language that will allow them to slowly push in the agenda they want.

Avatar of Rebecca Watson
Rebecca leads a team of skeptical female activists at Skepchick.org and appears on the weekly Skeptics' Guide to the Universe podcast. She travels around the world delivering entertaining talks on science, atheism, feminism, and skepticism. There is currently an asteroid orbiting the sun with her name on it. You can follow her every fascinating move on Twitter or on Google+.

40 Comments

  1. Avatar of Mark Hall

    `Really, when are you just going to accept that life begins at penis? `Born with a penis? `Congrats, you are a person. `Born without a penis? `Baby machine. `Born with a penis, but decide to have it remade into a not-penis? `Dead, obviously. `You died with your penis. `Born without a penis, but decide to have some bits repurposed? `Undead. `Those who have false penises are the equivalent of vampires, usurping the rights of the penis-enabled for their own nefarious purposes.

    `It’s really all quite simple and logical.

    (Items preceded by a ` may or may not be connected with reality. Consult your local GOP today for the correct thinking on this.)

  2. Avatar of karac

    It is utterly beyond my comprehension why any women would vote for a Repuplican candidate. Yet some do, and “attack” me when I point out the continued “War on Women”. On trend I have noticed there is that it is typically someone who has had and regretted a procedure such as an abortion early in life, and now feels like she has to stop other women “making the same mistake”. The other type are just socially and fiscally conservative and seem to let their hatred of Obama blind them to the real GOP agenda.

  3. Avatar of Elyse

    This also prevents families from adequately preparing for a life with a disabled child… or, worse, forces them to prepare for a life with a child that has no possibility of living more than a few minutes.

    Imagine spending months and thousands of dollars planning to have a new life with your new baby, and that baby dies 30 minutes after being born and learning that YOUR DOCTOR KNEW THIS WOULD HAPPEN. That’s the kind of info being withheld.

    On top of it being an unconscionable stripping away of our rights, it’s just downright cruel.

  4. Avatar of frogmistress

    It is as if they are ramping up speed, as if the Blunt Amendment gave them courage even though it failed and sparked a huge outcry from women.

    We have years of work ahead of us just to get us back to 2009.

  5. Avatar of izmirstinger

    Any doctor who withholds information from a patient that could save their life has violated the Hippocratic Oath in a seriously egregious way. The AMA should strip all such doctors of their license.

  6. Avatar of chiral

    Also here in Idaho, although no one seems to be paying attention to this one nationally. The link below is the only newspaper story I’ve seen about it locally (although I wouldn’t be surprised if there were others). I knew about it from a planned parenthood email. There was a rally at the capitol today at noon.

    I don’t know too much about all the details, I get shaky with rage just thinking about the details I do know.

    http://www.idahopress.com/news/local/idaho-pre-abortion-ultrasound-debate-heats-up/article_48981c9a-68ef-11e1-8e2d-001871e3ce6c.html

  7. Avatar of lilim

    “the absolutely horrific and contradictory bills that are being approved by state legislatures left and right.”

    But mostly right, amirite?

  8. Avatar of zylla

    (I posted this on an earlier blog, but thought it bears repeating, especially since this is International Women’s Day.”)

    “I myself have never been able to find out precisely what feminism is: I only know that people call me a feminist whenever I express sentiments that differentiate me from a doormat or a prostitute.”
    – Rebecca West

    • Avatar of Lizzy

      Sex workers can be feminists.

    • Avatar of lucifermourning

      I’d never heard the bit of the quote after “doormat”

      Though that could be because I mostly remember seeing it on the door of my English teacher’s classroom in high school…

  9. Avatar of marilove

    I’ve lived in Arizona my entire life. I try to defend it when possible. I can’t defend this shit. I want to vomit.

  10. Avatar of Pugg Fuggly

    Am I wrong, or wouldn’t a doctor still be able to be sued if there was a life-threatening condition for the woman? Wouldn’t that fall under “gross negligence?” It’d make the bill slightly less repugnant, but still pretty much so.

    The fact sheet on azpolicy.org is pretty enlightening, by the way. http://blog.azpolicy.org/wp-content/uploads/f12-13-WrongfulLife.pdf

    • Avatar of marilove

      Not so enlightening. I already knew it was a bill attempting to restrict the right to choose.

  11. Avatar of benbradley

    A more restrictive abortion bill has been introduced in Georgia, and in response a bill was introduced to outlaw vasectomies:
    http://blogs.ajc.com/political-insider-jim-galloway/2012/02/21/democratic-women-seek-a-state-ban-on-vasectomies-for-men/
    “Think of the unconceived children!”

  12. Avatar of pteryxx

    Another one in Kansas:

    “Among other provisions in the proposed legislation are measures allowing doctors to withhold from patients medical information that might encourage them to seek an abortion and prohibiting malpractice suits if the woman or the child suffers a health complication as a result of information being withheld. A wrongful death lawsuit could be filed if the mother dies. The bill also would require doctors to tell women that abortion causes breast cancer and would prohibit state employees from performing abortions on the job.”

    http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/03/08/kansas-abortion-bill-sales-tax_n_1327301.html

  13. Avatar of freemage

    Unfortunately, the opening analogy only works if you recognize the absurdity of “conception = person” to begin with. An unused sperm, outside of Catholicism, is not viewed as a person by these folks, so they can make the mental twists needed to refute the analogy a bit too easily for it to be an effective argument.

    Fortunately, reality provides us with another, sturdier analogy. To-wit: “Before receiving blood, plasma, bone marrow or organ transplants from live donors, the recipient must hear a graphic and detailed description of the potential health risks and pain suffered by the donor.”

    The point we need to be making is that ‘personhood’ of the fetus is largely irrelevant. Even if the fetus is a ‘person’, one person cannot force another person to to place their life at risk for their own medical needs. Opponents of abortion, in order to be consistent, would need to support a mandatory national genetic registry to match donors. Blood donation would be a legal obligation, and organ/marrow donations would be required by random draw; exceptions would only be provided in parallel cases to exceptions for abortion bans.*

    And only men would be subject to these rules, since a previously undetected pregnancy could, in theory, be put at risk by making the donations in question. So come on, my fellow doods, step up and have your kidney registered for removal! It’s for the children!

    *: Naturally, the only funding provided to donors would be that provided to pre-natal care, as well. So if there’s no help for a cashier who gets pregnant, there’s also no help for a stockboy who gets called up for partial liver donation. He’s gotta pay for his part of the procedure out of his own pocket.

  14. Avatar of Rebecca Watson

    I can say with some degree of certainty that you’re incorrect, here. IANAD, but I’m sure there would be scores of doctors coming forward to clarify that ultrasounds are always necessary anyway, and so there’d be no need to either make them mandatory or to protest the legislation.

    The fact that some women do need intravaginal ultrasounds should in no way indicate that they are or should be mandatory for everyone.

  15. Avatar of ysabiau

    “I think that it’s important in this extremely emotive debate not to form straw man arguments. It only weakens our case.”

    There is a rather substantial difference between a doctor recommending a particular procedure based on your actual medical needs and having the government insist you need one whether you actually need one or not.

    The government has zero business mandating invasive medical procedures – or any other medical procedures, for that matter. Your doctor should discuss your case with you, and together you should establish a course of action based on your actual needs and the intended outcome. I don’t know about anyone else, but I’d kind of prefer to have a doctor who’s actually examined me in charge of my medical care rather than a lawyer who’s never met me.

  16. Avatar of marilove

    Have you heard of cases where doctors aren’t providing necessary ultrasounds? No? Me neither! Not even once! And you’d think, if that were happening, the anti-choice crowd would have grabbed on to that, to help their case. But guess what? Doctors already provide appropriate ultrasounds when necessary, because that is their damn job.

    The government isn’t trying to mandate this because they are concerned about women; they are trying to mandate this because they want to control the choice of women, and they want to make that controlled choice as difficult as possible.

    • Avatar of Rebecca Watson

      Just a note that the person who posted the comment that the last three comments are replies to has asked that I delete her post because Gravatar accidentally “outed” her when she didn’t want to be outed. I’ve let her know that she can post under a sock puppet if she wants.

      • Avatar of Buzz Parsec

        I was confused, because I thought you were replying to geologic, who’s point, I think, was not that “some ultrasounds are medically necessary, therefor no one should be complaining about them” (name that logical fallacy), but “I’ve spoken to some women who had medically necessary intravaginal ultrasounds, and they said they were extremely invasive and hurt a lot, therefor no one should have them unless they are medically necessary.”

        BTW, when a doctor or dentist says “you might experience some slight discomfort”, that means it’s going to hurt like hell.

        • Avatar of marilove

          I’ve had one. It wasn’t painful, but she used so much lube I was slip ‘n slidin’ home, lol. It wasn’t terrible, but it was awkward and it took forever (she was checking for things not related to pregnancy). It’s not something a woman WANTS to go through unless necessary, and a lot of women would find it far more uncomfortable than I, for various reasons.

          This bill is terrible, but apparently this would be the 10th state to pass such legislation, so it’s nothing new. :/

          • Avatar of Elyse

            I’ve had many TVUs, and mine have ranged from mostly uncomfortable to just shy of painful. It’s not so much the insertion as much as the moving the probe around and the pushing to get a better “view”.

          • Avatar of Buzz Parsec

            I’m a guy. We all know we have a lower pain threshold. :-)

          • Avatar of Otoki

            I’ve only had one, and it was before I was sexully active, so it was pretty painful, but I agree that the moving it around was awful.

  17. Avatar of mtlskeptic

    Whatever happened to Republicans wanting to get the government out of our lives? Oh wait, I forgot. That only applies when the government would do something useful, like health coverage, social security, unemployment. It’s OK when the government intrudes on your life in order to shit on your rights… especially if you are a woman or a minority. This is so sad and demoralizing.

    • Avatar of robro

      I’m reasonably certain that when Republicans say they want to get “government out of our lives” they really mean get government out of our business lives not our personal lives.

  18. Avatar of mrmisconception

    ALL TEH STOOPID MENZ IS MAKING ME SAD :(((((

  19. Avatar of geologic

    Rebecca and Elyse, they are also passing laws to allow (and actually DEMAND that) doctors to legally withhold treatment to save pregnant women’s lives, and cannot be sued by the families when she dies. Izmirstinger, the Hippocratic Oath carries no weight.

  20. Avatar of geologic

    I have some co-workers who have had medically indicated trans-vaginal ultrasounds, and described them as Very Uncomfortable, bordering on Painful. And these WERE necessary…

  21. Avatar of Mark Hall

    https://plus.google.com/108952536790629690817/posts/ZNovBg2kp9E

    Phil Plait posted something about this. Y’all have fully indoctrinated me, incidentally. Where’s my cabana boy uniform?

  22. Avatar of crowepps

    As I understand the underlying legal justification for the “okay to lie to the patient” laws, the zygote/blastocyst/embryo is considered the doctor’s real patient, and the woman is merely a potentially uncooperative container and ‘nutrition source’. It is considered acceptable to lie to her and keep her in the dark about her and the fetus’ medical condition, even when it seriously damages her, because her position is adversarial to that of the fetus, who is ‘innocent’ and therefore the more important ‘person’ in the equation.

    The doctor may have to pay a financial penalty if someone objects to his tricking her into dying, unless he has a really good lawyer to argue how it wasn’t his fault at all but hers for “not gestating correctly”. They seem sure that lawsuits aren’t too likely, since after all why would her husband care about keeping poor breeding stock around that can’t produce reliably?

    There’s a reason so many of these bills are coming out of the Agricultural Committee.

    • Avatar of Buzz Parsec

      “the zygote/blastocyst/embryo is considered the doctor’s real patient”

      This made me think of a really ugly analogy. Imagine a legal system where your lawyer, although claiming to you was your representative and there to protect your rights, actually represented the state and was legally required to ignore your interests in favor of those of the state. In fact, I think that’s exactly how the legal system works under fascism and other authoritarian systems.

  23. Avatar of James Fox

    Well we already have nut jobs that make doctors who provide abortions anxious for their own safety; and if any of this legislation passes there will be a new bunch of anxious doctors who will have to face husbands and fathers who may consider doing very unpleasant things if a doctors decision to withhold information resulted in someone’s injury or death.

  24. Avatar of James Fox

    Interesting, I just posted a comment and it was inserted between two comments from yesterday. If I could only harness these special powers.

  25. Avatar of Flying sardines

    Powerful post – well said Rebecca & thankyou. I’m sharing this on facebook – would love to have a button to click to make that easier but will cut’n’paste it.

    I’d wish everyone a Happy International Women’s day but in the circumstances it seems inappropriate seeing these laws and the war on women raging and leading to so much suffering so bad now.

  26. Avatar of Flying sardines

    Let’s make it a Happy International Womens day *next year* by throwing these evil misogynist laws and the sick cruel, disgusting people promoting the women-hating anti-freedom and opportunity for all Coathanger lobby out of power and into social outcast status shall we?

  27. Avatar of

    I won’t go into the ultrasound issue, because it involves a value judgment and reasonable people can fall on either side of the issue. Nothing about the debate is all that interesting except that, again, a skeptical blogger is commenting on politics exclusively from a far left-liberal viewpoint, without acknowledging the arguments of the other side.

    However, I raised my eyebrows when I saw the SB 1359 link – it didn’t go to a legitimate news source but to a left-wing advocacy site. So I searched for a legitimate news story about it, and found this AP write-up:

    http://www.claimsjournal.com/news/west/2012/02/10/200779.htm

    Here are some quotes from the article:
    “Arizona could become the latest state to ban lawsuits similar to one filed by a Florida couple whose son was born with no arms and one leg.
    The couple sued their doctor for not detecting their son’s disabilities before he was born, arguing that if they had known, they would have elected to have an abortion. In September, a jury awarded them $4.5 million to care for the boy.”

    And this:
    “Barto said the bill will still allow “true malpractice suits” to go forward. The bill states that its restrictions would not apply to lawsuits involving an “intentional or grossly negligent act or omission,” including one that violates a criminal law.” I notice you mention this in your second edit, but since you don’t link to a story quoting this, here it is.

    Here’s the kicker:
    “Planned Parenthood has no plans to weigh in on the bill, said spokeswoman Cynde Cerf.”

    Arizona would be the 10th state to pass such a law.

    If indeed women will die as a result of this public policy, as you claim, would there not already be some examples from one of the 9 states where the law is already on the books? Pennsylvania, North Dakota, South Dakota, Utah, Idaho, Indiana, Missouri, Minnesota and North Carolina have already passed similar laws (3 of those are blue states, btw, voting for Obama in 2008). As a skeptic I go where the evidence takes me and if women are dead as a result of this law, I’ll reconsider my viewpoint that you are using hyperbole/scare tactics to make your case instead of logic/reason.

    If your argument is to the left of Planned Parenthood, you might have an extreme viewpoint. And if you’re using issue advocacy tactics (like the creationists you justifiably bemoan), you may have a flawed argument.

    Aside: I found the Claims Journal link via the Huffington Post, which even for a liberal website offers a more balanced view than Rebecca: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/03/09/wrongful-birth-bill-arizona-senate-abortion-bill_n_1335117.html

  28. Avatar of annabolic

    Yep. Here in Arizona it's like we're competing with Virginia, Texas, Utah, and other states in a race to the bottom. Today the state senate is hearing SB1009, which requires public schools to promote childbirth and adoption over abortion. And before that they were debating HB2036, which bans abortions after 20 weeks, denying options even in the case of fetal anomalies. Put it together with severe cutbacks in abortion access initiated by our lovely Gov. Jan Brewer, the prevalence of abstinence-only education, and our sky-high teen pregnancy rate, and it seems like we just might win this race. Ugh.

  29. Avatar of tracylords

    "Democratic Ohio state Sen. Nina Turner is the third female lawmaker to introduce a bill that would limit men's access to Viagra and other erectile dysfunction drugs to make a statement about the dozens of anti-abortion bills that have passed statehouses around the country over the last year." I am from Ohio (Go Buckeyes!) and lmfao when I read this. It is about time. Giving male politicians colonoscopies without an anesthetic should be required to find out if they have cranial analitis (head stuck up their ass).

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