Mandatory ultrasound laws take the anti-abortion protestor and put him inside the exam room with the patient. These laws are literally designed to give the anti-abortion protestor legal standing in the context of a woman’s medical setting, and to make her pay for it to boot. Any politician who votes for coerced medical procedures as a pretext for obtaining medical services needs to understand they forever give up their free pass on being progressive on women’s issues.
Contrary to what anti-choicers would have you believe, before this became law, it was already common practice to allow women the ability to view an ultrasound in an abortion setting. Mandatory ultrasound laws perpetuate the truly nasty myth that women’s healthcare providers hide information from women. A study conducted by Obstetrics & Gynecology found that in the study’s setting when given a choice, 42 percent of women chose to view the image. Of those who viewed the image, only 17 out of 15,575 chose not to proceed. And that’s great. We want more choices, not fewer, provided in the context of healthcare.
Of those studied, approximately 99 percent of women were not persuaded to forego the procedure. The whole point of mandatory ultrasounds is to shame women, and that’s misogynistic. It’s the opposite of nurturing of participatory healthcare setting.
Women’s healthcare as a whole is about making informed choices within a participatory doctor/patient relationship. Mandatory ultrasounds — performed without regard for mental health status, no less — are coercive, irresponsible and misogynist because the practice trades on the assumption that women are morons who are unable to make informed healthcare decisions for themselves.
In the case of Florida state Senator Darren Soto, running for Congress for Alan Grayson’s district, sending him to Washington would fly in the face to all who believe that women are full human beings who deserve to be free from state-sponsored shaming in the exam room. This is not an issue of abortion being “safe and rare,” it’s mandated paternalism that no true “progressive” friend of women’s rights should stand for.
With regard to Darren Soto in particular, we’re given the excuse that we have to put up with such votes because he represents a Hispanic community that is believed to be more conservative on this issue than others. But that’s simply not true. See this graph from a recent Pew Hispanic poll on Latino voters’ opinions on a range of subjects. Views on abortion track with the rest of the total U.S. population. There are only minor variations at either end of the scale of opinion on abortion.
This is no persuasive political pretext for a vote for mandatory ultrasounds. Ethnicity is either an ill-informed, or disingenuous excuse to deal a set-back to women’s reproductive health issues.
So what is one to think of a Democratic lawmaker who touts himself as Progressive, but votes to put anti-abortion protestors inside the exam room with women seeking healthcare services? Is he a friend of women? Does he represent Progressive leadership? Should he be sent to Washington to represent Alan Grayson’s district?
With regard to The War On Women, as it plays out political terms, it gets even more disturbing. Here you see an image has been circulating on social media by a high-profile Soto supporter that goes far beyond the pale of acceptable political discourse. In this image his Democratic opponent, and long-time progressive activist, Susannah Randolph’s is literally X’d out. There’s a twisted psychology here that is usually reserved for B-movie serial killers identifying their next victim.
One would hope that the Senator has already reached out to this leader and asked that the imagery be taken down, and the person has simply refused. As of this morning, it’s still circulating.
Given the threat of violence that women face in social media and in real life — especially for women in political life — this posturing should not just be frowned upon. It should be shunned, and the author should be asked to apologize. Let’s not encourage this behavior at any point in the campaign, let alone on the very first day the candidate’s run.
When the status of women as human beings isn’t a matter ideology — of a firm belief in what is right and wrong — it’s much more likely our issues and our votes will be traded for some other shiny object. It’s more likely that rhetoric heats up to fevered pitch, and it’s more likely for fringe elements to take all of that as license to take it too far.
Trading women’s issues for the support of social conservatives who shelter together with the Chamber of Commerce crowd is a familiar theme. With a 100 percent approval rating from the Chamber of Commerce, you can bet that Darren Soto touts his “small government” bona fides when it comes to business. But his vote on mandatory ultrasounds (as well as mandatory counseling) suggest he doesn’t understand women also have the right to be free from government intrusion.
Either a woman has the right to be the arbiter of what is right for her, or not. For someone who truly believes in a woman’s right to choose, and her right to exist free of coercion or threat of violence, there’s no horse-trading on this issue.
Trying to have it both ways puts you in some utterly ugly company.
Brook Hines is a writer, photographer, activist and former alt-weekly publisher, as well as an award-winning advertising creative with more than 20 years’ experience crafting strategy in “words + pictures” for clients ranging from banking and financial services to radical nuns. She’s the Senior Political Correspondent for Progressive News Network, the Communications Chair for the Democratic Progressive Caucus of Florida, and the 2015-2016 Co-Chair of New Leaders Council, Orlando Chapter. All opinions offered here are her own. You can easily find Brook Hines on Facebook and Flickr. Read all of Brook’s articles here.