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February 22, 2012

Updated: Virginia, Other States Mull Ultrasound Laws

The governor backed off his unconditional support for the legislation.

The notable surge in pro-life legislation from 2011 continues this year with a number of bills pending at the state level.

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Virginia’s General Assembly has made national headlines in recent weeks for several of its abortion-related bills. The most notable bill is one that would require women to have an ultrasound before an abortion. The House and Senate approved their versions of the legislation, and Republican Gov. Robert McDonnell previously expressed full support for the bill. But support appears to be waning in recent days after a large protest outside the Virginia State Capitol.

Proponents argued the ultrasound requirement would allow women to be better informed prior to having abortions. But opponents argued that the requirement imposes unnecessary costs and would be invasive, calling it state-sanctioned rape. Women considering abortion during the first trimester (when 80 percent of abortions occur) would need to have a vaginal probe for a doctor to view the fetus. The House put off a vote approving the final version of the bill, and McDonnell has backed off his unconditional support for the bill. He gave Republican legislators an amendment stipulating that the test be an abdominal ultrasound, according to The New York Times.

Legislators in at least three other states are considering ultrasound legislation. Both Pennsylvania and Illinois Houses have bills up for debate that require ultrasounds prior to an abortion, while a bill before Oklahoma’s state Senate would require women to listen to a fetus’ heartbeat before the procedure.

Meanwhile, Oklahoma’s Senate began its 2012 legislative session by easily passing a bill that states life begins at the moment of conception. The bill’s author, Sen. Brian Crain (R-Tulsa) says the bill asserts that Oklahoma is “pro-life.” The bill drew international attention after Sen. Constance Johnson (D-Holdenville) proposed an amendment that would have made men wasting sperm an act against unborn children. Oklahoma legislators are considering a House Joint Resolution that would send the Personhood issue to a state vote.

At least 11 other states have similar “Personhood” amendment bills, according to The Times. Efforts in Utah have been dropped. Mississippi Republicans are trying to add a Personhood amendment to the November ballot, even though voters defeated a similar amendment last fall. In a surprising twist, the full Virginia Senate killed its version of a Personhood bill on Friday by voting to send it back to the Senate Education and Health Committee.*

Georgia’s state House is considering a bill that would limit the time a woman could have an unimpeded abortion to 20 weeks (down from 26 weeks) and remove exceptions for abortions after 26 weeks for reasons involving mental health. Proponents argue the bill would prevent late-term abortions to fetuses who can feel pain. But opponents say 20 weeks is not late enough because some pregnancy complications do not surface until later.

And in South Dakota, lawmakers have proposed new legislation that aims to clarify the state restrictions on abortion passed last year. The law requires women to undergo counseling at a pregnancy help center and wait 72 hours after an initial consultation before having an abortion. Physicians who perform abortions are also required to provide counseling on all the risk factors related to abortion. Opponents argue the newest bill tries to strengthen the restrictions so it can stand up in court. Planned Parenthood filed a lawsuit against last year’s law, and a federal judge suspended most of the law from taking effect until the challenge is decided.

*This story has been updated.

Comments

How is it that a mandatory ultrasound scan -- that is, an ultrasound scan with no prior clinical need or justification -- does not violate the Fourth Amendment's "unreasonable search" clause?

Who pays for this? Not only is it an invasion of privacy, it's costly. They are trying to chip away women's rights...think we won't notice.

You call it an "unreasonable search" to require doctors to show a woman that the "thing" she is about to kill is a real human being? This isn't about government gathering information or snooping around...it's about requiring doctors to show the patient what they themselves already know. In fact, abortionists ALREADY require ultrasounds for health reasons:

http://www.lifenews.com/2012/02/21/planned-parenthood-already-rapes-women-in-pre-abortion-ultrasound/?utm_source=feedburner&utm_medium=feed&utm_campaign=Feed%3A+lifenews%2Fnewsfeed+%28LifeNews.com%29

You call it an "unreasonable search" to require doctors to show a woman that the "thing" she is about to kill is a real human being?

Yes, I do. Since the ultrasound is not justified for any clinical / medical reason, and because the woman would be coerced into having it ... yes, an "unreasonable search" is an accurate description, and is therefore contrary to the 4th Amendment.

This is not about the "metaphysics" or "ontology" of what the fetus is or isn't.

It's about the Constitution.

requiring doctors to show the patient what they themselves already know.

You refute your own argument here . If the patient "already know[s]" what the fetus is, then why is an ultrasound required to tell her what she already knows ... least of all a mandatory ultrasound?

Actually, there is a very good medical reason for the medical ultrasound prior to the abortion. The embryo can implant in the fallopian tubes and will still give a positive test for pregnancy. If the woman gets an abortion without an ultrasound, she will think that the baby has been "flushed" from her system, when in reality, it is still growing in the fallopian tube. It will at some point rupture, and then possibly kill the woman. So, it is actually for the woman's health to have an ultrasound prior to the abortion.

Stacy, and what about the innocent baby's health? Who speaks for him or her?
James, when a murderer is about to kill another human being, it is no longer considered unconstitutional to use every means possible to stop the murderer from his/her heinous act, including the invasion of the home where the killer is stationed.

And by the way keeping on calling a wrong a right does not make it one. This generation is not as stupid or naive as you think.

Actually, there is a very good medical reason for the medical ultrasound prior to the abortion. The embryo can implant in the fallopian tubes and will still give a positive test for pregnancy. If the woman gets an abortion without an ultrasound, she will think that the baby has been "flushed" from her system

If that is the case, then I withdraw my objection to making the ultrasound mandatory.

The very party that bluntly states they want smaller government, wants to give the government all of the power over women's bodies. I'll respect Evangelicals when they care for all of life, the young & old. They only care about babies and could care less about the poor, hungry, unemployed, minorities, women and illegals. The Bible was very specific in caring for the people they constantly criticize and try to pass laws against. They hate their brother and can only love an unborn person. I'm seriously ashamed to be identified with the a hate group pretending to Christians. I'm a young woman that will never, vote for another conservative Republican until they change their views of the people Jesus welcomed with open arms.

James, when a murderer is about to kill another human being, it is no longer considered unconstitutional to use every means possible to stop the murderer

According to the law, abortion -- at least abortion per se -- is not murder. And since conservatives never tire of trumpeting their advocacy for "law 'n' order", I know you will want to defer to the law.

Boy, sounds like a bunch of liberals, secularists and humanists on this site. Church people meaning Christians contribute more care to the poor people than non Christians do. The IRS says so. It's the liberals, democrats being responsible for the closing of Catholic hospitals and agencies by using special laws like special homosexual laws and laws not allowing a person whose conscience says no to killing the unborn. 56 million babies so far, all the wars of mankind haven't killed so many in such a short time and it's legal in the new secular society of the U.S. Yes, let us women keep killing our young instead of adopting out which Christians also do more adopting than anybody else. Soon we'll reach 360 million babies dead, the amount of people in this country and let's keep going after that. Pregnancy is not a health problem 98% of the time, it is a normal physical thing of life for women resulting from sex. Close your legs, women if you dont' want a baby, and, men get some respect for women instead of using them for free sex. That'll stop the killing.

Original Anna, opening your statement with with the claim that people who do not agree with you are A) not Christian or B) liberal in some sort of pejorative sense, does not really incline them to seriously consider what you say afterwards. By the way, if simply telling people not to have sex worked, then we wouldn't be having any of these conversations.

The intensity of discussion and disagreement on abortion and contraception points to a need to more carefully what others are thinking and a greater effort to understand. There seems to be a big question about the logic of wanting everyone to be free to make independent decisions and at the same time wanting the government to prevent them from making decisions in some cases. What seems illogical to me is the idea that if an employer is required to have an insurance plan that includes some contraceptive benefits when the employer does not believe in contraception is forcing the employer to go against his conscience. It seems to me that if an employer who does not believe in contraception does not practice contraception, then he is living in keeping with his conscience. What does his conscience have to do with what an employee chooses to do of his own will? It sounds as if the employer wants to force the employee to share the employer's point of view. How can this be right? Can an employer soothe his conscience by denying his employees the opportunity to commit what the employer thinks is sin? Where is individual freedom and responsibility in this scenario?

What seems illogical to me is the idea that if an employer is required to have an insurance plan that includes some contraceptive benefits when the employer does not believe in contraception is forcing the employer to go against his conscience.

I can understand and -- in some contexts, even sympathize -- with your reaction. But how far are you (impersonal "you") willing to go for the sake of consistency?

For example, take a very conservative, even fundamentalist, school that receives some sort of government support (textbooks, lab equipment, whatever). Should that school be required to teach, say, the theory of evolution, the Big Bang, etc., even though the school only accepts a creationist / intelligent design / young earth account of creation?

It is one thing to leave such a school free to teach creationism / ID in, say, a denominational seminary or a Sunday School. But when the school opens its doors to the general public and seeks to meet government-defined standards for, say, academic accreditation, then the school is in the "public square" and has to play by the rules that prevail there.

Same or analogous things hold true of hospitals. If a Catholic hospital wants to hire only Catholics, treat only Catholics, etc., and if the hospital chooses to be independent of government standards / criteria for granting certification of medical facilities ... then, fine, that hospital should be exempt from requirements to offer insurance covering contraception, abortion services, etc.

But when a hospital chooses to "play" in the "public square", then the government has a right to demand that it "play" by the same rules that prevail for similarly public institutions.

A hospital is not like a Catholic parish. A Catholic (or Baptist or Methodist or Presbyterian ... ) parish can, and has a right to, hire only Catholics, offer insurance plan consistent with Catholic teaching on "life issues", etc. But a Catholic parish is not "public" in the same sense as a Catholic hospital.

Finally, would a Muslim hospital be allowed to enforce shari'a restrictions on women employees, e.g., mandating the wearing of veils / scarves, etc. Maybe there are no such things in the US as "Muslim hospitals", but there is no reason in principle why there could not be.

I think the question comes down to a question of whether a Catholic hospital is more like a public, secular hospital, or like a "private" (in a sense) Catholic parish. If the latter, then, yes, its practices are hedged about with "free exercise"-clause protections. But if more like the latter, then there is no reasonable expectation of such protection.

It would be a good thing for doctors to be required to use an ultrasound before an abortion to be sure that all medical questions are answered. The woman should be allowed access to the ultrasound if she wishes. Beyond that it is an attempt to legislate morality which is attempting the impossible. We have had the Ten Commandments for millenia, and their effectiveness at controlling morality can be seen in our present situation. If God can forgive us all of our lawlessness, then we should be able to learn about forgiving those who err. I oppose abortion, but I would never condemn anyone who opts for that route. Instead, I would try to show them the blessings of love by loving them wholeheartedly.

I'm going to say this as delicately as I can -- and even so, it probably will end up getting censored and deleted by the moderator. All I can say is that I am sincere and not posting this to shock or offend, though it will probably do both. 

If I look at conservative positions on "life issues", across the board and not just in VA but everywhere, I cannot avoid the strong and rather queasy-making sense that there is a strong and not-really-all-that-covert element of pornographic interest in conservatives' interest, even obsession, with what is going on inside women's bodies -- up to and including their (conservatives') unseemly eagerness to stick things into women's bodies to find out. 

The whole thing suggests, not only a concern with "life issues", but also a tendency to use those (quite legitimate) issues as camouflage for some seriously unhealthy sexual pathologies. 

It would be a good thing for doctors to be required to use an ultrasound before an abortion to be sure that all medical questions are answered.

It is one thing for the ultrasound -- invasive or non-invasive -- to be performed from true clinical / medical necessity.

But, at least with the intra-vaginal version of the ultrasound, the ultrasound proponents did not even bother constructing a medical / clinical case as a "fig leaf" justification. Their avowed and openly acknowledged purpose was to try to use the blunt instrument of the law to coercively impose their "pro-life" agenda on a woman who, being a patient, would be in a very vulnerable position.

It was an act of cowardice, even a form of de facto rape, and their contempt for the woman is exceeded only by their contempt for the US Constitution, in particular for the Fourth Amendment's prohibition of "unreasonable search".

I oppose abortion, but I would never condemn anyone who opts for that route. Instead, I would try to show them the blessings of love by loving them wholeheartedly.

I must say I'm more than just a little astounded that you have not had your epaulets stripped off at sunrise, had your brass buttons torn off your uniform and your saber broken in half, and been summarily drummed out of Fort Jesus at sunrise.

After all, you are committing the court-martial offense of premeditated compassion.