Abortion Ultrasound Bill Signed in Virginia

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Transvaginal ultrasound procedure being performed on television program The Doctors
Source: “Virginia Passed A Law Mandating An Ultrasound That People Think Is Like Rape,” www.BusinessInsider.com, Feb. 22, 2012

A bill requiring pregnant women to undergo an ultrasound before having an abortion was signed into law on Mar. 7, 2012 by Virginia’s Republican Governor, and 2012 Vice Presidential prospect, Bob McDonnell.

A controversial section of the bill that would have required some women to have a transvaginal ultrasound, rather than the less invasive transabdominal procedure, was removed by the Virginia House of Delegates on Feb. 22 after a public outcry from pro-choice advocates.

Virginia joins seven other states now requiring women to have ultrasounds prior to abortions, with some states’ laws being stricter than others. Virginia’s bill requires that women be given the opportunity to view the ultrasound image and hear the fetal heartbeat, while Texas’s law, one of the most stringent in the nation, mandates that the ultrasound image be placed in the woman’s line of sight while the doctor describes it to her.

Proponents of mandatory ultrasound laws assert that women have a right to receive the information provided by the procedure. “Ultrasounds are the gold standard of medical care, and women deserve to have such testing,” stated Americans United for Life President and CEO Charmaine Yoest after the Virginia bill’s signing.

Opponents argue that the law forces women to undergo an unnecessary medical procedure without their consent, and that such laws are part of a thinly veiled campaign to erode women’s reproductive rights, established by the US Supreme Court’s 1973 Roe v. Wade decision. Charniele Herring, Virginia state House Democratic Whip and Chair of the Reproductive Health Caucus, stated that “playing politics with women’s health and women’s rights is abhorrent.”

An earlier version of the bill mandated transvaginal ultrasounds be performed when fetal shape and heart tone could not be detected by the transabdominal method. McDonnell dropped his support for this requirement after it provoked a storm of protest, with Delegate Herring likening the proposed requirement to “state-sponsored rape.” As described by the US National Institutes of Health, the “usually painless” procedure involves the insertion of “a probe, called a transducer, into the vagina. The probe is covered with a condom and a gel.”


“Americans United for Life Calls Life-Saving Ultrasound Bill the ‘Gold Standard of Medical Care’ and Essential to Protecting Virginia’s Women and Girls,” Americans United for Life website, Mar. 7, 2012

“Bob McDonnell, Virginia Governor, Signs Mandatory Ultrasound Bill Into Law,” www.HuffingtonPost.com, Mar. 7, 2012

Lucy Madison, “Virginia Senate Passes Controversial Ultrasound Bill,” www.CBSNews.com, Feb. 28, 2012

“McDonnell’s Not-So-Magic Wand,” www.Economist.com, Mar. 3, 2012

Sabrina Tavernise and Erik Eckholm, “Ultrasound Abortion Bill Nears Vote in Virginia,” www.NYTimes.com, Feb. 20, 2012

“State Policies in Brief: Requirements for Ultrasound,” Guttmacher Institute website, Mar. 1, 2012

“Transvaginal Ultrasound,” National Institutes of Health’s National Library of Medicine website (accessed Mar. 8, 2012)

“Virginia House Amends Abortion Bill to Say No Woman Will Have to Undergo Involuntary Internal Ultrasound,” www.WashingtonPost.com, Feb. 22, 2012