Another day, another Republican legislator showing the world how painfully ignorant he is when it comes to the female anatomy he's so interested in regulating. This time it's Idaho state Rep. Vito Barbieri who, when hearing testimony from a doctor on a proposed ban on telemedicine abortions, asked if a gynecological exam can be done by a woman swallowing a camera. The Minneapolis Star Tribune reports:
Dr. Julie Madsen, a physician who said she has provided various telemedicine services in Idaho, was testifying in opposition to the bill. She said some colonoscopy patients may swallow a small device to give doctors a closer look at parts of their colon.
"Can this same procedure then be done in a pregnancy? Swallowing a camera and helping the doctor determine what the situation is?" Barbieri asked.
Madsen replied that would be impossible because swallowed pills do not end up in the vagina.
"Fascinating. That makes sense," Barbieri said, amid the crowd's laughter.
Prior to asking if women's vaginas are somehow connected to their digestive tracts, Barbieri was holding himself out as extremely knowledgeable about the practice of medicine. As Tara Culp-Ressler at ThinkProgress points out, Barbieri is generally supportive of most telemedicine that doctors perform today. He makes an exception for abortion and cites his own supposedly educated and nuanced opinions on the relative safety of various medical procedures as the reason for treating abortion differently.
“I just want to point out that I think from my perspective, telemedicine has great advantages,” Barbieri said during the hearing. “It’s important to recognize cost savings, ease of use, accessibility. However, there are certain examinations and procedures which require personal hands-on exams, and I think this is one of them." He elaborated: "I’m convinced that when a woman becomes pregnant she is no longer taking food for herself, but there is another now involved in the mother’s health, and this is a proper role of government to protect life.” At least Barbieri does hat-tip his real anti-abortion motivations here, but that's all couched in talk about abortion as particularly dangerous because of the food-taking and the mother's health and whatnot. Very medical.
Actual medical experts, of course, say that telemedicine abortions are very safe. But what do they know? They have never pondered the question of whether women's vaginas are accessible through their mouths, after all.