Just when you thought the national abortion debate over fetal ultrasounds couldn’t get more heated — what with furious political sniping and a controversial series of “Doonesbury” cartoons — here comes Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Corbett.
At a news conference this week, Corbett was asked about a state bill that would require women seeking abortions to undergo a mandatory fetal ultrasound. The governor said he would support the bill as long as it wasn’t “obtrusive.”
Then Corbett said that for any woman who might object to the procedure, well, “you just have to close your eyes.”
Corbett had been asked by a reporter if requiring a woman to view an ultrasound went “too far.” The governor replied in full:
“I’m not making anybody watch, OK? Because you just have to close your eyes. As long as it’s on the exterior and not the interior.”
The comments lit a new fire in the ultrasound wars, prompting a fresh wave of commentary on Twitter and other social media, the Philadelphia Inquirer reports. And the Democratic Governors Assn. launched a petition drive asking people to join in “telling Governor Corbett to stop the repugnant attacks on women’s health.”
Some of the comments pouring into the Inquirer’s website were, were shall we say, provocative:
“Every murderer should be forced to look at their victim before killing them.”
“Let him watch when he’s getting his next colonoscopy.”
“Kudos to Governor Corbett, if people took responsibility for their actions no innocent life would be at stake.”
“Corbett is a clown. He also belongs to satan.”
And so on.
Earlier this month, Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell signed into law a bill requiring women to have an ultrasound before undergoing an abortion, and at least 20 states regulate some aspect of ultrasounds for women seeking abortions.
Some states require abortion providers to give women the option to view the fetal image or listen to the heartbeat if an ultrasound is performed. Similar legislation is pending in almost a dozen other states.
A law passed in Texas this year goes even further. It requires women seeking abortions to undergo an ultrasound and, if a woman declines to view the fetal image or listen to the heartbeat, abortion providers are required to read a description of the fetus – an action mocked in a Doonesbury cartoon published in newspapers this week. (A Doonesbury character listening to a Texas doctor’s description worries that her fetus will grow up wanting to be another Rick Perry, the Texas governor and a vocal proponent of the new law).
Anti-abortion groups say that such laws help women make more informed decisions. They also point out that ultrasounds are used routinely in healthcare settings.
Opponents of ultrasound laws say they’re intrusive, insulting and an infringement on a woman’s right to control her own reproductive health.