Ultrasound bill passes

Published 9:22 pm Wednesday, February 29, 2012

By Michael Bodine

Capital News Service

The Virginia Senate on Tuesday passed a bill that will require any woman seeking an abortion to undergo a mandatory ultrasound examination.

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House Bill 462 has been the focus of extensive debate during this year’s General Assembly before being amended on the recommendation of Gov. Bob McDonnell.

Rather than require a transvaginal ultrasound to determine gestational age of the fetus, the Republican governor asked legislators to mandate only a transabdominal procedure.

With that amendment, HB 462, which was sponsored by Delegate Kathy Byron, R-Lynchburg, passed the Senate on Tuesday on a 21-19 vote. It will be sent with its revisions back to the House for another vote before McDonnell signs it into law.

The Senate vote was highly partisan, though the bill did gain support from two Democratic senators, Phil Puckett of Tazewell and Charles Colgan of Manassas. One Republican, Sen. John Watkins of Midlothian, voted against the measure.

Despite the alterations, supporters of the bill, such as the Virginia Society for Human Life, are pleased with the Senate’s vote.

“Virginia Society for Human Life is grateful that the Senate supported the right of women to have access to this critical and relevant medical information about their own bodies and their unborn children before they make the irreversible decision for an abortion,” said Olivia Gans, the group’s president.

Jeff Caruso, executive director of the Virginia Catholic Conference, agreed.

“Though amended, the ultrasound bill as passed by the Senate will still give many women considering an abortion the opportunity to first have the benefit of important additional information before making these life-altering decisions,” he said.

“The Virginia Catholic Conference considers this Senate-approved bill an important improvement to Virginia’s current informed consent law and looks forward to its anticipated final approval in the House.”

Sen. Jill Vogel, R-Winchester, sponsored a companion bill that was scratched from the Senate last week after both bills were amended to be less invasive.

Gans was unapologetic about the original wording of the bill and its requirement of a transvaginal ultrasound.

“The abortion procedure itself, which employs curette knives, vacuum suction machines, and deadly drug cocktails designed solely to end her child’s life — and may also harm the mother — is far more invasive than any type of ultrasound technique to be used before an abortion,” she said.

Delegate Jennifer McClellan, D-Richmond, called the bill insulting to women and physicians.

“Virginia will now mandate an unnecessary and costly medical procedure for the first time in history that serves no purpose but to intimidate women and insert government into the most private of personal medical decisions,” McClellan said. “It is a sad day for women’s health in Virginia.”