By Michael Bodine
Capital News Service
RICHMOND – The Virginia Senate on Tuesday passed a bill that will require any woman seeking an abortion to undergo a mandatory ultrasound examination.
House Bill 462 has been the focus of extensive debate during this year’s General Assembly. It even fell victim to national ridicule last week before being amended on the recommendation of Gov. Bob McDonnell.
Rather than require a transvaginal ultrasound to determine gestational age, the Republican governor asked legislators to mandate only a transabdominal procedure.
After complying with the governor’s amendments, HB 462, which was sponsored by Delegate Kathy Byron (R-Lynchburg), passed the Senate 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 mostly 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’s agenda 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.
The Virginia Democratic Party voiced its concern over the passage of HB 462 in a press release Tuesday.
“Over the last few weeks, Republicans in the General Assembly have made Virginia a national joke, and today Senate Republicans delivered the punch line,” said Brian Moran, who chairs the state party. “No matter what Bob McDonnell and his cadre of fringe extremists think, the General Assembly has no business mandating a procedure on a woman, invasive or not.”
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.”
[Capital News Service is an entity of Virginia Commonwealth University.]