That’s what Jack Hitt calls them in his article in today’s (April 9, 2006) NY Times Magazine about El Salvador’s anti-abortion law enforcement apparatus, and that’s exactly what they are and that’s exactly what they do. This is from page 47:
As they do in any investigation, the police collect evidence by interviewing everyone who knows the accused and by seizing her medical records. But they must also visit the scene of the crime, which, following the logic of the law, often means the woman’s vagina.
“Yes,” we sometimes call doctors from the Forensic Institute to do a pelvic exam,” Topez [a woman who prosecutes abortions] said, referring to the nation’s main forensic lab, “and we ask them to document lacerations or any evidence such as cuts or a perforated uterus.” In other words, if the suspicions of the patient’s doctor are not conclusive enough, then in that initial 72-hour period [the time limit within which a prosecutor must make his or her case to a judge], a forensic doctor can legally conduct a separate search of the crime scene. Topez said, however, that vaginal searches can take place only with “a judge’s permission. […] The prosecutor can order a medical exam on a woman, because that’s within the prosecutor’s authority,” she said.
In the event that the woman’s illegal abortion went badly and the doctors have to perform a hysterectomy, then the uterus is sent to the Forensic Institute, where the government’s doctors analyze it and retain custody of her uterus as evidence against her.
Unfortunately, the article is not yet up on the Times’ website — I think they post Magazine section pieces the week after they are published — and so I can’t link to it, but there is a link to some information on the piece here, at Tennesee Guerilla Women. If you ever doubted that the anti-abortion movement is about gaining control — legal, constitutional control — over women’s bodies, read this article. Even if you oppose abortion, you need to read this article, not because it will change your mind about abortion per se, but because it should give you plenty of food for thought about what it would mean to make your position the enforceable law of the land.
El Salvador is now a country where women’s bodies are not their own, where their bodies are already, legally, invaded by the state from the moment they are born. That is totalitarianism at its worst, and it’s important to point out that it is a religious totalitarianism, not a secular one. The people who pushed these laws through did not try to hide the religious nature of their agenda, as anti-abortion activists have done here in places like South Dakota where the most restrictive anti-abortion law in the nation was passed based on supposedly non-religious evidence about when life begins. The Catholic Church did this to the women — also the men, but mostly and most horrifyingly the women — of El Salvador just like the evangelical Christian movement is trying to do here.