Amended Ultrasound Bill Passes Virginia Senate

The Virginia Senate has passed a modified version of the mandatory ultrasound bill that stirred a national uproar last week. Critics questioned the law’s original requirement that women seeking abortion undergo an unnecessary transvaginal ultrasound–in which a woman has a probe inserted into her vagina–calling it “state rape.” At the urging of Gov. Bob McDonnell, the bill was toned down in the state Assembly to require only abdominal ultrasounds (even though these show nothing early in a pregnancy).

Over the protests of Democratic Senators, the bill passed 21 to 19. Gov. McDonnell is expected to sign it into law.

The law would also require a 24-hour gap between the ultrasound and the abortion, much like a Texas law that has caused expensive logistical nightmares for abortion providers and women seeking abortions.

Virginia would join the list of states that require women to receive an unnecessary ultrasound in order to obtain an abortion: Alabama, Arizona, Florida, Kansas, Louisiana, Mississippi and Texas [PDF]. Mandatory ultrasound laws have also passed in North Carolina and Oklahoma but are unenforceable pending court decisions. A bill similar to Virginia’s is currently on the table in Illinois despite disapproval from two-thirds of voters in the state.

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Jessica Stites is the former associate editor at Ms. magazine. Today she's the editorial director of In These Times, where she runs the Leonard C. Goodman Institute for Investigative Reporting and edits stories on labor, neoliberalism, Wall Street, immigration, mass incarceration and racial justice, among other topics.