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Virginia legislators approve forced ultrasound bill

Here in Virginia, one of the several unfortunate results of the Republicans winning full control of the General Assembly last year has been the passage of a law requiring women to have ultrasound tests before undergoing abortions.

Because of the Supreme Court’s 1973 Roe vs. Wade decision, states cannot outright ban abortions. But rightwing legislators have been trying to come up with ways of putting as many obstacles as possible in front of women seeking abortions.

The idea behind the bill is to give a pregnant woman the opportunity (or more precisely, force her to have the opportunity) to view her unborn fetus before having an abortion. So while women seeking abortions will be forced to undergo the ultrasound, they won’t be required to look at the results.

In the early stages of pregnancy (when most abortions occur), viewing the fetus requires insertion of the ultrasound probe. So the lovely word “transvaginal” started appearing in media accounts of the bill.

Republican Gov. Bob McDonnell, a supporter of the bill, said he didn’t realize it required such a procedure. So he changed it to mandate external ultrasound tests only.

The Norfolk Virginian-Pilot reported:

Changes to [the bill] came after scrutiny from national media surfaced and opposition mounted among abortion-rights activists who blasted it as an overly invasive mandate.

Statistics show the majority of abortions performed in Virginia occur in the first trimester, a stage of pregnancy when detecting a fetus can be difficult without inserting a probe into a woman’s vagina.

The lone physician in the Senate, Ralph Northam, opposed the bill on principle and said it’s more pointless in its current form because it requires a test that won’t reveal anything. “I might as well put the ultrasound probe on this bottle of Gatorade. I’m going to see just as much,” the Norfolk Democrat said.

The revised legislation also makes the procedure optional for rape and incest victims who have reported the crime to the police.

So the bill has gone from being simply coercive to being both coercive and meaningless. It is revealed as nothing more than an effort by legislators to score points with the “pro-life” lobby.