On Clueless Congressmen and Trans-Vaginal Ultrasounds

11:32 am in Uncategorized by RH Reality Check

Written by Robyn Swirling for RH Reality Check. This diary is cross-posted; commenters wishing to engage directly with the author should do so at the original post.

Cross-posted with permission from The 9th And I.

Rep Sean Duffy

Rep. Sean Duffy wants to know what a transvaginal ultrasound feels like.

Rep. Sean Duffy is a Republican congressman from Wisconsin, but you might remember him better from his days on Real World: Boston. Last week at a town hall, Rep. Duffy was asked whether he believed trans-vaginal ultrasounds should be mandatory for abortions, an issue that is currently up for debate in his home state of Wisconsin, as well as in Indiana. A bill mandating trans-vaginal ultrasounds was previously considered in Virginia, but ultimately defeated. Rep. Duffy responded by saying that he didn’t know anything about the legislation, but couldn’t comment on legislating a medical procedure that has been discussed at length in the news lately, other than to say that he “probably agrees” with it. But he doesn’t really know because, he says, “I haven’t had one.”

Well, I have. I’ve had several, in fact. So, Rep. Duffy, pull up a chair and let me explain how a trans-vaginal ultrasound works, and how it feels.

The first time I had a 9 inch-long (230mm) hard plastic cylindrical probe inserted into my vagina, I was 15 years old. I was having extreme, sharp pains in my lower abdomen and was brought to the emergency room by a counselor at my summer music program in upstate New York. After having my first ever pelvic exam performed by an alarmingly young male doctor, I was brought into an ultrasound room. I had only been told that I would have an ultrasound to determine if an ovarian cyst had burst, as they suspected, and I figured it would be like the kind I’d seen them use on pregnant women on TV: on top of the stomach, with the gel. Instead, the male technician showed me the ultrasound wand, instructed me to put my feet in stirrups, and inserted the wand.

The technician pressed the wand against my cervix and pushed it further up and to the right side, prompting a sharp pain that didn’t subside until he finished pressing the wand hard against multiple parts of my insides to get a picture of my ovaries and uterus. The procedure lasted longer than usual because my bladder was too full to get out of the way, so he had to press harder and in more places in order to get a clear image.

In suffering with ovarian cysts and endometriosis for years after that experience, as well as with cervical dysplasia, I have had occasion for several more trans-vaginal ultrasounds. In total, I’ve had 9.

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