Some NHS Trusts Will Deny You Healthcare If They Think You’re a Virgin
A new investigation by VICE has found that there is a “50 percent chance a woman deemed a virgin” could be denied a transvaginal ultrasound.
Sophia Smith Galer, a journalist at VICE who led the research, said that she contacted 200 NHS Trusts about the procedure, which can help detect conditions like endometriosis and PCOS, and 57 responded to her. Out of the 57, 32—that’s more than half—say that they would never do this type of examination on someone they believe has never had sex. However, seven respondents said that they would consider doing the ultrasound if “adequate information” is found.
Some terms used about being a virgin by sixteen of the Trusts include “virgin”, sexually inactive, and “virgo intacta”, and are the reasons given for refusing to perform the procedure.
The other nine told VICE that they were currently reviewing their policies, with three explaining that they would change them in the coming months, while the remaining six said that they were simply reviewing theirs.
VICE’s investigation follows The British Medical Ultrasound Society (BMUS) updating their guidance in October last year. In their update, they said, “if a patient has not had penetrative sex, they are still entitled to be offered, and to accept, a TVUS [transvaginal ultrasound] in the same way that cervical screening is offered to all eligible patients … the concept of virginity plays no part in the clinical decision making for a TVUS”.
The publication was contacted by over 200 women in January after they conducted interviews with women who named 37 Trusts where they had been denied an internal exam because they were “virgins” or had not yet had sex.
In one story, they were told by a woman, who is a lesbian, that she had lied and said that she had had penetrative sex just so she could get an ultrasound. She told VICE about the scan saying, “Spoiler alert …the scan didn’t hurt and there were no issues whatsoever during the procedure.”
Other women have been told things like “you don’t lose it [your virginity] that way” and “we’ll cross that bridge when we come to it” a.k.a when she was no longer sexually inactive.
Janet Barter, President of the Faculty of Sexual & Reproductive Healthcare (FSRH) commented on the findings by Sophia saying: “Nobody should be assumed to be suitable or not suitable for intimate examinations on grounds of their sexual activity.
“All investigations and examinations should be properly discussed with the client and decisions made together on a person-centered basis.”
Despite 25 NHS Trusts saying that they carry out the examination regardless of whether a patient is sexually active or not, the virginity myth still prevails, and as VICE’s investigation finds, it can lead to horrific consequences, such as not getting diagnosed with serious conditions until more serious symptoms present.
(featured image: Cath Virginia)
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