The Virginia House of Delegates approved a revised version of a bill requiring a woman to have an ultrasound and be offered the chance to see the image before having an abortion.
Victoria Cobb, president of the Family Foundation of Virginia, said she was disappointed that the bill was amended but applauded the passage of the legislation, which she described as “essential” to the pro-life cause.
The altered bill, which states that a woman must receive an external, transabdominal ultrasound before an abortion, passed by a vote of 65-32 on Feb. 22.
The initial legislation was amended to exclude the requirement for an internal, transvaginal ultrasound after Gov. Bob McDonnell indicated that he would not otherwise support it.
McDonnell, who may be a possible competitor for the GOP vice-presidential candidate, is known for his commitment to life issues during his time in elected office.
“I believe deeply in the sanctity of innocent human life and believe governments have a duty to protect human life,” he said in a Feb. 22 statement.
However, he said that he had concerns about requiring women to undergo “an invasive procedure.”
The governor acknowledged that determining the gestational age of the fetus is “essential for legal reasons, to know the trimester of the pregnancy in order to comply with the law, and for medical reasons as well.”
But he said that, in most cases, an “external, transabdominal ultrasound” is sufficient to determine the unborn baby’s age.
He asked the General Assembly to amend the legislation “to explicitly state that no woman in Virginia will have to undergo a transvaginal ultrasound involuntarily.” He requested that the bill state that only an external ultrasound will be required.
McDonnell’s statement came as a surprise to many pro-life advocates, as he had previously indicated that he would sign the original bill.
Critics of the amendment argued that the original bill had not actually mandated internal ultrasounds because it had not specified what type of ultrasound must be performed.
They suggested that the distinction between types of ultrasounds was an attempt to fight the bill’s real purpose, which they see as ensuring that a woman “be given an opportunity to view the ultrasound image of her fetus prior to the abortion.”
Cobb said that she is disappointed, especially given “the strong pro-life credentials of this governor and the fact that both chambers of the General Assembly have already passed this bill.”
However, she added, “the passage of an ultrasound bill is essential to advancing a culture of life in Virginia.”
She explained that the Family Foundation has ceased its opposition to the amendment because it believes that failing to pass a timely ultrasound bill would be worse than passing the amended bill.
The ultrasound legislation, which will now move back to the state Senate, is one of several bills being considered by the current Virginia Legislature, which is strongly pro-life.
Other laws that are being considered include a bill that would allow civil wrongful death lawsuits to include the death of an unborn child and another providing that “unborn children at every stage of development” enjoy the rights and privileges of other persons in Virginia.