In a major victory for women’s health advocates, Gov. Bob McDonnell (R) has publicly backtracked from his support for a bill requiring women to undergo an invasive transvaginal ultrasound before having an abortion. In a statement released this afternoon, McDonnell offered an amendment that would not force women to receive the procedure. “Mandating an invasive procedure in order to give informed consent is not a proper role for the state,” McDonnell said:
I am requesting that the General Assembly amend this bill to explicitly state that no woman in Virginia will have to undergo a transvaginal ultrasound involuntarily. I am asking the General Assembly to state in this legislation that only a transabdominal, or external, ultrasound will be required to satisfy the requirements to determine gestational age. Should a doctor determine that another form of ultrasound may be necessary to provide the necessary images and information that will be an issue for the doctor and the patient. The government will have no role in that medical decision.
The state Senate has already passed the bill, and the House is expected to pass the ultrasound bill as soon as today. McDonnell has previously backed the bill, saying that “the concept that a woman should have all of the information possible before she makes a decision about terminating a pregnancy” and that he would sign the bill.
But the ultrasound bill is still unnecessary. Studies have shown that viewing an ultrasound does not change a woman’s mind before an abortion, and the Guttmacher Institute reports that requiring an abortion only adds to the cost of an abortion. “Since routine ultrasound is not considered medically necessary as a component of first-trimester abortion, the requirements appear to be a veiled attempt to personify the fetus and dissuade a woman from obtaining an abortion,” the group writes.
The Virginia House passed the ultrasound bill today 65-32 with the governor’s substitute language that does not require the invasive transvaginal ultrasound.