Despite National Spotlight, Senate Committee Approves Controversial Mandatory Ultrasound Bill

Affiliate: ACLU of Virginia
February 23, 2012 12:00 am

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Richmond, VA – The Senate Education and Health Committee today advanced HB 462, which requires a woman to have an ultrasound prior to obtaining an abortion. The bill now heads to the Senate floor.

“Today’s vote illustrates how anti-choice legislators are attacking women’s reproductive freedom and privacy rights,” said Katherine Greenier, Director of the Patricia M. Arnold Women’s Rights Project at the ACLU of Virginia. “Despite testimony from medical professionals opposing this bill, legislators still approved unnecessary measures that chip away at a woman’s right to control her own body.”

After considerable public outcry against HB 462’s apparent mandate requiring transvaginal ultrasounds for all women seeking abortions, the Senate Education and Health Committee amended the bill to require only that abdominal ultrasounds be performed. The bill still requires doctors to offer the more invasive transvaginal ultrasound if the doctor is unable to obtain an image of the fetus via the abdominal ultrasound.

The amended version of HB 462, however, does not substantially ease the burden on women seeking abortions. Physicians testified before legislators that the abdominal ultrasound is medically unnecessary because most abortions occur in the very early stages of pregnancy, when an abdominal ultrasound cannot capture an image of the fetus.

“The amendment to HB 462 is merely an attempt to halt national media attention while allowing for the intended effects of the bill to remain – shaming women seeking abortion care, delaying their access to healthcare by imposing additional costs and requiring unnecessary procedures, and intruding in the private doctor and patient relationship,” said Greenier.

The Senate Education and Health Committee earlier today also passed HB 1, the so-called personhood bill, which grants fertilized eggs the same rights, privileges, and immunities as people and lays the legal foundation to ban access to abortions and contraception in the Commonwealth. However, the full Senate effectively killed the bill for the year by sending it back to the Committee and carrying it over to 2013 for further study.

“HB 1 being carried over is a victory for women’s rights and health, but let’s not forget the extreme legislation still before the Senate, namely the mandatory ultrasound bill,” said Greenier. “We are disappointed to see that the bill was only passed by until 2013, but delighted that legislators heard the public’s pleas not to place politics over women’s health.”

Today, hundreds of activists gathered at the General Assembly for a Pro-Choice Day of Action. They joined the ACLU of Virginia and other pro-choice advocates in urging legislators to keep the government out of personal medical decisions that should be left between women and their physicians. The ACLU of Virginia has urged members of the Senate to vote against anti-abortion bills.

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