February 3, 2012
Pro-Life Advance and Setback as Va. Focuses on Abortion
State Senate passes ultrasound bill, but committee kills bill ending abortions at 20 weeks.
For only the second time since the Civil War, Republicans control both houses of Virginia’s General Assembly, and the state’s abortion laws might change drastically because of it.
On Wednesday, the state Senate narrowly passed a bill that requires an ultrasound for women seeking an abortion, signaling the probable passage of the bill into state law.
Twenty-one people in the 40-member Senate approved the bill, which mandates an ultrasound but does not require the woman to view the image. Proponents argued the requirement is important because it determines the fetus’s gestational age; opponents said the requirement imposes unnecessary costs and acts as a “thinly veiled attempt” to restrict abortion access. The House of Delegates is expected to pass the measure, and Governor Robert McDonnell has already said he will sign it into law.
Meanwhile,a bill that prohibits abortions after 20 weeks failed to make it out of the Health and Education Committee in the Senate Thursday, effectively stalling it. Other bills still in the Assembly’s consideration include giving legal rights to fetuses from conception on, ending subsidies for poor women to abort fetuses with serious birth defects, and requiring insurers that cover abortions to also offer policies that do not.
Should the sonogram bill pass, Virginia would join six other states with similar laws. Last month, the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals upheld a Texas law requiring abortion providers to perform an ultrasound, have the patient listen to the fetal heartbeat, and give a detailed description of the fetus. Under the law, a woman cannot decline hearing the description except in cases of rape, incest, or fetal abnormality.
The January ruling by a three-judge panel overturned a lower court decision that said the law was unconstitutional because it forced doctors to be the “mouthpiece” of the state’s ideological agenda. Proponents argue the law ensures women are fully informed before deciding to abort. The Center for Reproductive Rights said it would appeal for a rehearing by the entire Fifth Circuit.