Legislators craft less invasive ultrasound bill

Both chambers of the General Assembly started revising legislation forcing women to get a fetal ultrasound before an abortion after Gov. Bob McDonnell persuaded lawmakers not to require a vaginal probe as part of the procedure.

That change was reflected in the revised version of House Bill 462 that the Senate Education and Health Committee approved Thursday on an 8-7 party-line vote. This measure, sponsored by Delegate Kathy Byron, R-Lynchburg, will go before the full Senate next week.

McDonnell’s recommendation, requiring a “transabdominal” ultrasound but not a “transvaginal” one, also was adopted when the House voted 65-32 Wednesday to modify and approve Senate Bill 484.

On Friday, the Senate was ready to consider the change that the House had made to SB 484. But the bill’s sponsor, Sen. Jill Holtzman Vogel, R-Winchester, withdrew the measure.

Originally, both HB 462 and SB 484 required an ultrasound that would establish the gestational age of the fetus. In many cases, this would require a transvaginal procedure. Republican legislators supporting the legislation faced criticism from Democrats and women’s groups and were the target of jokes on national television shows.

Before Wednesday’s vote, McDonnell asked that the legislation be changed to eliminate the requirement for a transvaginal ultrasound before an abortion.

“It is clear that in the majority of cases, a routine external, transabdominal ultrasound is sufficient to meet the bills’ stated purpose, that is, to determine gestational age,” McDonnell said in a prepared statement.

“I have come to understand that the medical practice and standard of care currently guide physicians to use other procedures to find the gestational age of a child when abdominal ultrasounds cannot do so.”

The modifications made by GOP lawmakers at the governor’s request did not appease Democrats.

Delegate Charniele Herring, D-Alexandria, said McDonnell’s amendments to the bills make them “no less egregious or intrusive.”

Delegate Mark Sickles of Franconia also spoke out against the bills.

“The entire nation is now looking in and learning each day about our misplaced priorities,” said Sickles, who chairs the House Democratic Caucus.
“This most personal government intervention was not asked for, is unnecessary, and should be vetoed when it reaches Gov. McDonnell’s desk.”

The Virginia Society for Human Life said it hoped the General Assembly would pass a law to “give women a greater degree of information and protection from unscrupulous abortionists.”

“The Virginia Society for Human Life supports the right of women to see an ultrasound and hear her baby’s heartbeat before undergoing the far more dangerous and invasive procedure of an abortion, the same procedure which is always a deadly one for her unborn child,” said Olivia L. Gans, the group’s president.

Under the legislation, after performing a fetal ultrasound, medical professionals would offer the woman an opportunity to view the sonogram image and hear the fetal heartbeat. A printout of the ultrasound image would be kept in the woman’s medical records.

How they voted
Here’s how the House voted Wednesday on “SB 484 Abortion; informed consent.”
YEAS – Albo, Anderson, Bell, Richard P., Bell, Robert B., Byron, Cline, Cole, Comstock, Cosgrove, Cox, J.A., Cox, M.K., Crockett-Stark, Dudenhefer, Edmunds, Fariss, Farrell, Garrett, Gilbert, Greason, Habeeb, Head, Helsel, Hodges, Hugo, Iaquinto, Ingram, Johnson, Jones, Kilgore, Knight, Landes, LeMunyon, Lingamfelter, Loupassi, Marshall, D.W., Massie, Merricks, Miller, Minchew, Morefield, Morris, O’Bannon, O’Quinn, Orrock, Peace, Pogge, Poindexter, Putney, Ramadan, Ransone, Robinson, Rush, Scott, E.T., Sherwood, Stolle, Tata, Villanueva, Ware, R.L., Watson, Webert, Wilt, Wright, Yancey, Yost, Mr. Speaker – 65.
NAYS – BaCote, Brink, Bulova, Carr, Dance, Englin, Filler-Corn, Herring, Hope, Howell, A.T., James, Joannou, Keam, Kory, Lewis, Lopez, May, McClellan, McQuinn, Morrissey, Plum, Rust, Scott, J.M., Sickles, Spruill, Surovell, Torian, Toscano, Tyler, Ward, Ware, O., Watts – 32.
ABSTENTIONS – Marshall, R.G. – 1.
NOT VOTING – Alexander, Purkey – 2.
Delegate Alexander was recorded as not voting. Intended to vote nay.

Here’s how the Senate Education and Health Committee voted on “HB 462 Abortion; informed consent.”
Feb. 23 –Senate: Reported from Education and Health with substitute (8-Y 7-N)
YEAS – Martin, Newman, Blevins, Smith, McWaters, Black, Carrico, Garrett – 8.
NAYS – Saslaw, Lucas, Howell, Locke, Barker, Northam, Miller, J.C. – 7.
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