Rape, rape victims, and Kentucky's forced ultrasound law

Bruce Maples
Bruce Maples
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Rape: … sexual penetration perpetrated against a person without that person’s consent.

If that definition of rape seems accurate to you, then answer this: Does Kentucky’s new “forced ultrasound” law fit that definition? And if it does, what effect does that have on rape and incest victims?

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For now, let’s put aside the insulting message of this bill to all women (“you’re too stupid or morally incompetent to make this decision with your doctor”), and focus just on the fact that there is no exception for rape or incest.

The law states that before ANY abortion, the woman must undergo an ultrasound, while the doctor describes the images on the screen. There must also be audio of the fetal heartbeat.

Some of you may be thinking “well, okay, so they put that gel on the woman’s stomach and run that thing over her and there’s the pictures. What’s so bad about that?” (Again, for right now, we’re ignoring the attitude toward women behind that thought.)

Here’s the problem: For most of the first trimester, a transabdominal ultrasound is inadequate to meet the requirements of the law. Only a transvaginal ultrasound will work. The process involves using a probe, inserted into a woman’s vagina, in order to get sonograms of the fetus and to hear the heartbeat.

Now let’s imagine that you are a rape victim. You have already had your vagina forcefully penetrated, against your will. You decide to report the rape, and once again, have your vagina penetrated by the rape kit.

Then you discover you are pregnant. You have two choices: get an abortion, or carry the fetus caused by the rape to term. You decide to get an abortion, and are told that once again you must have your vagina penetrated, against your will.

By order of the state.

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Is this what we want? To take survivors of rape and incest, who are already traumatized more than most of us will ever know, and force them to undergo an unwanted procedure that will surely further traumatize them?

“Rape by the State” may seem like overkill to you – but to women who have already been victimized sexually, this procedure is exactly that. It does not change women’s minds, it is medically unnecessary, and in the case of rape and incest victims, it is even more cruel and inhuman.

Representative Joni Jenkins has introduced a bill to make exceptions for rape and incest in Kentucky’s forced-ultrasound law. Our legislators need to approve it – or they need to explain why they think re-raping women is a good idea.

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Bruce Maples has been involved in politics and activism since 2004, when he became active in the Kerry Kentucky movement. (Read the rest of his bio on the Bruce Maples Bio page in the bottom nav bar.)

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