Friday, 23 March 2007

Mandatory Obstetric Photography (MOP)

Birth Pangs announces today that it is embarking on a new campaign, Mandatory Obstetric Photography (MOP).

To help pre-pregnant women understand fully the long-term, serious consequences of pregnancy, we propose a law that requires pre-pregnant women to have Mandatory Obstetric Photography. The women would strip naked for a series of full-body, harshly lit photographs. Special attention would be paid to perky breasts, tidy hips, and taut skin. Then the women must look at the photos. Before becoming pregnant, all women would be required to sign an affidavit that they had seen the photos and understand that they will never look like that again.

To give credit where credit is due, we stole this idea from our fetus-fetishizing friends in South Carolina, who this week pressed forward a bill that would require all women seeking abortions to have ultrasounds and then swear they had seen said ultrasounds. From an AP story:

COLUMBIA, S.C. – With calls of emotional blackmail from opponents, a measure requiring women seeking abortions to first review ultrasound images of their fetuses advanced Wednesday in the South Carolina Legislature.

The legislation, supported by Republican Gov. Mark Sanford, passed 91-23 after lawmakers defeated amendments exempting rape or incest. The House must approve the bill again in a routine vote before it goes to the Senate, where its sponsor expects it to pass with those exemptions.

Some states make ultrasound images available to women before an abortion, but South Carolina would be alone in requiring women to view the pictures.

Critics consider the proposal a tool to intimidate women who already have made an agonizing decision.

“You love them in the womb but once they get here, it's a different story,” said Rep. Gilda Cobb-Hunter, a Democrat and a social worker. “You're sitting here passing judgment? Who gave you the right?”

Proponents hope women will change their minds after seeing an ultrasound.

Now, note that the Birth Pangs initiative, while just as coercive and manipulative, does not require ultrasound. That's because we, unlike legislators in various USian states, take warnings from various medical organizations, including the US Food and Drug Administration, seriously.

In the January/February 2004 issue of its Consumer Magazine, the USian FDA cautions against ultrasound for non-medical reasons.

While ultrasound has been around for many years, expectant women and their families need to know that the long-term effects of repeated ultrasound exposures on the fetus are not fully known. In light of all that remains unknown, having a prenatal ultrasound for non-medical reasons is not a good idea.

Still, ultrasound is a form of energy, and even at low levels, laboratory studies have shown it can produce physical effects in tissue, such as jarring vibrations and a rise in temperature. Although there is no evidence that these physical effects can harm a fetus, the FDA says the fact that these effects exist means that prenatal ultrasounds can't be considered completely innocuous.

Here's the bottom line from the same article:
Legitimate Uses for Ultrasound Imaging
* Diagnosing pregnancy
* Determining fetal age
* Diagnosing congenital abnormalities
* Evaluating position of placenta
* Determining multiple pregnancies

Note the absence of 'manipulating women by emotional blackmail into continuing a pregnancy they do not want'.

Other organizations also disapprove of non-medical uses of ultrasound, including the American Institute of Ultrasound in Medicine, the European Committee for Medical Ultrasound, Canadian Society of Diagnostic Medical Sonography, Ontario Medical Association, and in February 2007, the British Medical Ultrasound Society (BMUS) also weighed in. In a widely reported story, Reuters quotes Dr. Kevin Martin, BMUS president:

The society feels that ultrasound was developed and is intended for medical diagnosis and any such scans should be endorsed by a medical practitioner.

Here is what Wikipedia has to say about the dangers of ultrasound:

The safety of ultrasonography has been studied extensively. All medical procedures have beneficial consequences with risk for detrimental consequences. However, the important question is: what is the balance between the two?

Ultrasound does have bio-effects. Usually these are in some proportion to the amount of energy put into in the tissue, and high-intensity ultrasound can have the following effects:

* Cavitation: Very high negative acoustic pressures can cause temporary microscopic vacuum pockets. When these collapse, they produce very high local temperatures that can cause damage to the immediate region.
* Heat generation: Local tissue absorbs the ultrasound energy and increases their temperatures. Long-duration elevated temperatures above 41 C can damage tissue.
* Bubble formation: dissolved gases come out of the solution due to local heat increases.

Heat and cavitation are the two primary known detrimental bio-effects and for this reason, the use of ultrasound is regulated by government agencies.

Ultrasonography is generally considered a "safe" imaging modality. However slight detrimental effects have been occasionally observed.

Got that? The fetus-fetishists want to expose the sacred fetus (and the woman of course) to 'slight detrimental effects' in order to convince her to continue the pregnancy and perhaps give birth to a slightly damaged infant. Makes perfect sense, doesn't it?

We at Birth Pangs, however, have more respect for women and fetuses. Well, to be absolutely truthful, actually we fear assault charges and malpractice suits. In jurisdictions other than South Carolina, forcing a person to undergo invasive, potentially harmful 'treatment' of absolutely no therapeutic value would be considered assault, and in this case, perhaps even sexual assault.

Medical professionals who carried out such treatment would have their asses hauled into court and before every professional association they belonged to.

And because the most likely people to bring such suits and charges are better-off, better-educated women, we at Birth Pangs, like the fetish-fetishists in the US, would focus our efforts on younger, poorer, less well-informed women, who could probably be shown a murky photo of a hot dog in a mug of root beer and be convinced it was a human being.

So, listen up, Canada, when politicians like Elizabeth May offer 'nuanced' positions on abortion. Positions that call for 'fewer' abortions rather than accessible and safe abortions. Positions that recommend waiting times and counselling. Positions that denigrate unwillingly pregnant women as insane and desperate. Positions that would deny a certain class of humans -- women -- the basic human right to control their own bodies.

Listen well. Because if we go that route, can forced ultrasounds be far behind?

(First published at Birth Pangs.)

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