The Virginia General Assembly has approved a watered-down version of a controversial bill requiring women to have an ultrasound before undergoing an abortion. The measure now goes to Gov. Bob McDonnell for his signature.
The bill had initially required transvaginal ultrasounds before all abortions, including those that result from rape or incest, but was amended at McDonnell’s urging to require only externally administered ultrasounds.
The Virginia Senate passed the new version of the bill last week and included an additional amendment exempting women whose pregnancy was the result of rape or incest, provided the assault was reported to police. That bill passed the Republican-controlled House of Delegates on Thursday by a vote of 61-35.
The bill’s sponsor, Del. Kathy Byron (R-Campbell), says the bill ensures that women are informed about pregnancies before they have an abortion, according to the Associated Press.
Critics say the bill forces women to have – and doctors to perform -- a medically unnecessary procedure. And some say the bill is fraught with potential legal problems.
Carl Tobias, a law professor at the University of Richmond, says the bill might place an undue burden on women, making it vulnerable to legal challenge.
Enforcement could also be problematic, he said, because it could violate doctor-patient confidentiality.
“How is the state going to verify that there’s been compliance by a doctor unless they see records?” Tobias said. “I don’t know how you can prevent the state from seeing the names” of patients, he said.
McDonnell has seven days to act on the bill.