Virginia legislators are debating a bill that will require women to have an ultrasound prior to receiving an abortion.

Senate Bill 484 was revised by the state House of Delegates during the week of Feb. 20 after concerns were raised about its invasive nature.

Originally, the legislation sought to have women undergo a transvaginal ultrasound. However, after much protest, politicians did away with the transvaginal ultrasound requirement and replaced it with the transabdominal procedure.

“Mandating an invasive procedure in order to give informed consent is not a proper role for the state,” said Gov. Bob McDonnell (R-Va.) in a Feb. 22 statement. “No person should be directed to undergo an invasive procedure by the state, without their consent, as a precondition to another medical procedure.”

McDonnell originally supported the bill. The sponsor of the mandate, Sen. Jill Holtzman Vogel, (R-Fauquier), has also backed down, saying that she will soon move to strike the bill that she proposed.

Women’s groups and concerned citizens have protested the legislation outside the Virginia State Capital, and popular shows including “Saturday Night Live” and “The Daily Show with Jon Stewart” have poked fun at the bill. However, not everyone is laughing.

“Should Virginia women thank the Governor for giving them a choice over the type of procedure the state will force on them at his behest?” said Brian Moran, chair of the Virginia Democratic Party. “This amendment is an insult to women and to the Virginians who put their trust in this Governor and his party to run this Commonwealth.”
Lawmakers say the ultrasound is needed to determine the age of the fetus before an abortion is performed.

Abortions in America are only allowed to take place in the first and second trimesters. A transabdominal ultrasound during the first trimester can show a fetus that is too small to correctly determine age and due date, thus making a transvaginal ultrasound necessary. Under the new law, women can opt out of the transvaginal ultrasound.

Information compiled by the Guttmatcher Institute, an organization that promotes healthy sexual and reproductive practices globally, show that there are seven states with laws similar to SB 484 which require ultrasounds prior to an abortion. In Texas, abortion providers are forced by law to show and describe ultrasound images to the patient.

Alexis Taylor

AFRO Staff Writer