Virginia Governor’s About-Face May Spell End of Ultrasound Law

picture of an abdominal ultrasound probe (virginia ultrasound law)
An Abdominal Ultrasound Probe (Wikimedia Commons)

After becoming the target of feminist protests, late-night comedy jabs and a relentless media spotlight, Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell withdrew his support today for one of two proposed state anti-abortion laws. Rumors that he was having second thoughts about signing the transvaginal ultrasound law were confirmed this afternoon in a statement released by the Governor’s office:

… Having looked at the current proposal, I believe there is no need to direct by statute that further invasive ultrasound procedures be done. Mandating an invasive procedure in order to give informed consent is not a proper role for the state. No person should be directed to undergo an invasive procedure by the state, without their consent, as a precondition to another medical procedure.

For this reason, I have recommended to the General Assembly a series of amendments to this bill. I am requesting that the General Assembly amend this bill to explicitly state that no woman in Virginia will have to undergo a transvaginal ultrasound involuntarily. I am asking the General Assembly to state in this legislation that only a transabdominal, or external, ultrasound will be required to satisfy the requirements to determine gestational age. Should a doctor determine that another form of ultrasound may be necessary to provide the necessary images and information that will be an issue for the doctor and the patient. The government will have no role in that medical decision.

Taking the governor’s lead, the General Assembly promptly amended the bill to require an abdominal, not transvaginal, ultrasound. Reproductive-health experts say that this procedure–in addition to being medically unnecessary–is also futile: Abdominal ultrasounds rarely show anything in the early weeks of pregnancy. “What you have done is mandate an ultrasound that is utterly useless,” noted Democratic delegate Jennifer McClellan during debate.

The law now requires state Senate approval. However, it may not make it to a vote: Its previous sponsor, state Sen. Jill Holtzman Vogel, does not support the amended version and says she will ask that the bill be stricken.

A second anti-abortion law that would declare a fetus a “person” is still pending in the Virginia Senate.

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