Sian Leach is completing her first year in Sarah Lawrence’s Women’s History MA program. She hails from Texas and graduated from Kalamazoo College in 2011. The following is a testimonial of her personal experience with contemporary women’s health care.
All of the recent restrictive legislation on reproductive rights has really pissed me off. As a self-identified feminist, I believe that women have the right to control their own bodies. This includes medical decisions should be made between women and their doctors, as opposed to between them and the government. This issue is also very personal to me. While I have been lucky to never have had to make the choice in dealing with an unwanted pregnancy, I have had my fair share of medical issues.
A lot of people have heard the term, “transvaginal ultrasound,” especially now that it is getting tossed around by predominantly male politicians (who, as men, probably have no understanding of what this entails). Even with so much discussion of this, I’m not sure how many people truly understand what this procedure involves, nor its price tag. In 2009, I had a transvaginal ultrasound. My doctor and I decided it was the best plan to see what was going on with my body. But today, certain state governments legislate this decision for women before they can have abortions.
When I made my appointment for an ultrasound, nobody told me that it would not be of the standard gel-on-your-stomach variety. I showed up at my appointment, went back to the ultrasound room, and was told to undress from the waist down. When the technician came into the room, she showed me the probe that would be used: a long dildo-like wand, with what appeared to be a condom over it, covered in lube. She then briefly explained how a transvaginal ultrasound worked. With the standard phrase heard in doctors’ offices everywhere, she told me, “Just relax,” followed by the slightly rhetorical question, “Are you ready for this?” The only response I had was, “Is anybody really ever ready for this?”
After the ultrasound, I saw my doctor and we discussed what was visible in the ultrasound, and I went to pay my bill. Transvaginal ultrasounds are expensive. Even with insurance, my visit to the doctor that day was over $200. The exorbitant price of women’s health care is just another layer of the fight. With the cost of abortions already being so high, the added expense of a transvaginal ultrasound could prevent women from being able to access abortions. Government is increasingly involved in women’s medical experiences, but meanwhile there has been little, if any, progress toward making this healthcare accessible and affordable.
In the year 2012, it is depressing that we are still debating women’s reproductive rights. After all, wasn’t that one of the greatest accomplishments of liberal second wave feminism? In addition to the physical ramifications of this recent legislation, we also need to look at the larger issue of women’s autonomy. As long as politicians legislate women’s right to make decisions about their own bodies, the fight for women’s rights must continue.