Winning the Battle, Losing the War

Pro-choicers, for obvious reasons, were inclined to celebrate when Virginia Governor Bob McDonnell backtracked on a bill that would have required women to obtain transvaginal ultrasounds before obtaining an abortion. Finding an arbitrary abortion regulation that was actually politically toxic feels like a major victory, especially if it could translate to other states.

Unfortunately, as Dahlia Lithwick and Maya Dusenberry point out, even in Virginia the victory is proving to be largely hollow. While the bill that McDonnell is about to sign is a marginal improvement over the original because it allows women to opt out of a transvaginal ultrasound, it's still terrible legislation. Dusenberry does a superb job of explaining why the slightly-less-intrusive bill is still terrible: it adds a substantial cost to women seeking to obtain an abortion while providing no medical benefits, its burdens fall disproportionately on poor and rural women who already have less access to reproductive care, and the underlying basis of the law is sexist condescension (without an ultrasound, the overwhelmingly male legislators who voted for this bill would have you believe, women would not understand what a pregnancy entails.)

And as bad as mandatory ultrasounds are in isolation, they're worse when combined with the other arbitrary and inequitable regulations that opponents of reproductive freedom have developed as an end-run around Roe v. Wade. Opposing these regulations won't be as easy as stopping mandatory transvaginal ultrasounds, but it's just as essential.

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