Over the last week or so, Gov. Scott Walker (R) has helped make one thing very clear: Wisconsin’s law mandating medically unnecessary ultrasounds before abortions is tough to defend.
The Republican governor’s recent troubles started 10 days ago, when he tried to defend the policy he signed into law by saying ultrasound images are “a lovely thing,” and the technology itself is “just a cool thing out there.” For Walker, this is apparently a justification for Wisconsin forcing women to undergo unwanted procedures for no medical purpose.
The governor dug a little deeper four days ago, suggesting the controversy itself is unnecessary. “Who’s opposed to an ultrasound?” Walker asked, deliberately missing the point.
All of this led to yet another development, this time on Saturday at a campaign event in New Hampshire. The Concord Monitor reported:
Another questioner, Mary Heslin, put Walker on the spot for a Wisconsin law enacted during Walker’s time as governor that requires pregnant women to have an ultrasound before getting an abortion. Heslin initially questioned Walker by asking whether he understood how “invasive” transvaginal ultrasounds are, but Walker responded by saying those are not required under Wisconsin’s law.“It has to be offered for the individual,” Walker told Heslin. “They can choose whether they want to see it or not or have it done or not, and it doesn’t designate what form.”
Right Wing Watch posted an audio clip, and there’s no real ambiguity. In reference to the state-mandated, medically-unnecessary ultrasounds, Walker told the voter, “The law says it has to be offered, it doesn’t have to be done.” He added that the woman “can choose whether they want to see [the ultrasound] or not, or have it done or not.”
The problem, of course, is that this is plainly untrue.
Granted, the New Hampshire voter who pressed Walker on the issue was mistaken, too – she said the Wisconsin law required invasive, transvaginal ultrasounds. That’s not the case, and when Walker pushed back on this point, he was correct.
But the rest of his response included some glaring errors. When Walker said the ultrasound “doesn’t have to be done,” that’s incorrect – under his own law, with a few narrow exceptions, women wishing to terminate a pregnancy have to undergo an ultrasound, regardless of their wishes, regardless of their physician’s recommendations.
And when the governor said women “can choose” whether to have the ultrasound “done or not,” that too is wrong.
The Concord Monitor’s report added that a Walker spokesperson “later clarified that he was referring to transvaginal ultrasounds when he was indicating that the procedure was optional.” Listening to the audio of the exchange, that explanation is hard to believe.
In the same exchange, the governor again talked about his general fondness for ultrasounds in general, which gets us back to where we were on Thursday: no one’s opposed to ultrasounds in general, but plenty of people are opposed to state-mandated, medically unnecessary procedures imposed by right-wing politicians who choose to interfere with the doctor-patient relationship as part of a larger culture war.
The problem, whether Walker understands this or not, is that politicians shouldn’t be in the business of dictating ultrasounds’ use – and they shouldn’t misstate the basic details of the policy when pressed for an explanation.