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Not as easy as closing your eyes, actually

Perhaps Pennsylvania governor Tom Corbett was seeking to divert attention from the harsh voter-ID bill he just signed into law, posthaste. He is taking a bit of (local) heat for that, especially from those who allege it targets those at historically Black colleges and universities.

Not content with the depth of the hole he'd dug, he spoke today about Texas' ironically-named Women's Right to Know Act. Thing is, Governor Corbett is all for transvaginal-sonogram legislation like this -- so much so that he wants Pennsylvania to have its very own law. Perfect distraction from voter-ID controversy, right?

Well, by commenting on it, Corbett pretty much pulled an aspirin-between-their-knees and invited a brand-new headache. Asked if such a law would go too far, Corbett said:

"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."

Keep in mind that Rick Perry's own transvaginal sonogram law mandates that doctors perform an ultrasound on women seeking an abortion, all while being  "required to display the sonogram images and make the heart beat audible." The patient being subjected to this can decline to view the images and listen to the heartbeat.

Pennsylvania's law would be the same (hence Corbett's attempt at comfort), but also, two personalized copies of the ultrasound image must be forced into the patient's hands before she leaves. All this, after she has been penetrated in a medically unnecessary manner described here by state attorney-general candidate Kathleen Kane, who had three transvaginal ultrasounds herself when she lost a pregnancy. (Kane's Democratic primary opponent, former Congressman Patrick Murphy, decried the governor's comments and demanded that he apologize.)

Garry Trudeau's comic strip "Doonesbury" has been spotlighting the Texas legislation all week -- and today's strip, in particular, illustrates quite plainly that closing your eyes doesn't exactly help when a woman is penetrated by that 10-inch wand.  Another response, less humorous and even more powerful, was published today in the Texas Observer.

Very recently, Carolyn Jones was told that her unborn second child would endure a horrifically painful life due to a birth defect detected in her second trimester. After having two transvaginal ultrasounds that day, she and her husband visited a Planned Parenthood clinic, where she was told she'd have to undergo a third procedure. Her response?

“I don’t want to have to do this at all,” I told her. “I’m doing this to prevent my baby’s suffering. I don’t want another sonogram when I’ve already had two today. I don’t want to hear a description of the life I’m about to end. Please,” I said, “I can’t take any more pain.” I confess that I don’t know why I said that. I knew it was fait accompli. The counselor could no more change the government requirement than I could. Yet here was a superfluous layer of torment piled upon an already horrific day, and I wanted this woman to know it. “We have no choice but to comply with the law,” she said, adding that these requirements were not what Planned Parenthood would choose.

Jones eventually ended her pregnancy, after enduring all of Texas' shaming tests and her own pain over her loss. Republicans like Perry and Corbett continue to push legislation like this, all designed to shame women into choosing not to abort their fetus. The very nature of the legislation implies that women don't take such a decision seriously enough, and they need "small government" governors to slow them down. It stands to reason that women like Jones show the fallacy of that argument, and prove that closing one's eyes doesn't somehow make it better.