Wednesday, February 22, 2012
Ultrasound bill may be revised, sources say
The legislators, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said the procedure could be made optional.
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From The Roanoke Times
RICHMOND -- In the face of widespread public criticism, some General Assembly members say they are working behind the scenes to "soften" a controversial bill that would require women to undergo an ultrasound examination before having an abortion.
Republicans on Tuesday delayed a vote for the second day in a row on SB 484, sponsored by Sen. Jill Vogel, R-Fauquier County. Two legislators -- one a conservative Republican -- speaking on the condition of anonymity, said officials have discussed making the ultrasound legislation optional.
Critics have savaged the bill because it would require most women to have a probe inserted into their vaginas.
Del. Lionell Spruill, D-Chesapeake, told the House that Vogel's bill would "force what I consider a legal rape with an ultrasound probe."
But Lynchburg-area Republican Del. Kathy Byron, who sponsored a House ultrasound bill, said in an interview after the House adjourned that abortion-rights groups and some in the media are distorting the proposed legislation.
Byron said most women in Virginia who have abortions already have ultrasounds. Most abortion providers, including Planned Parenthood, require the procedure, she said.
Without an ultrasound, a first-trimester abortion might be performed on a woman who is more than 12 weeks pregnant, she said. That could put the woman's life at risk, she said, because the procedures for late-term abortions are medically different.
"This bill requires that the gestational age is verified and confirmed through an ultrasound," she said. "Without an ultrasound, you're just guessing."
Jessica Honke, a spokeswoman for Planned Parenthood, confirmed that an ultrasound is part of the group's "standard of care," but added that if a woman insists on not having one, a decision as to whether she can have an abortion "is between her and her doctor."
Vogel's bill and other anti-abortion bills drawn by the Republican majority drew scorn at two protest rallies on the state Capitol grounds Monday. "Saturday Night Live" and other media shows have poked fun at the success of Republicans in advancing anti-abortion bills.
"The national conversation about Virginia is about whether a vaginal probe is a mandatory requirement before a woman exercises her constitutional right," said Del. Charniele Herring, D-Alexandria.
Asked about the national media attention, Byron said it was to be expected in a presidential election year.
"This is an issue that garners attention, especially when the information is distorted," she said. "When your opponents start spreading misinformation, you just keep firm and generally the truth will prevail."
Del. Todd Gilbert, R-Shenandoah County, the Republican House whip, said the GOP continues to strongly support the bill. A vote was delayed so several contentious bills, including one to relax the state's gun purchasing laws and another to allow adoption agencies to refuse to place children with same-sex couples, could be heard at the same time.
Gov. Bob McDonnell has expressed support for an ultrasound law, but because the bill is in flux, a spokesman for the governor wouldn't commit to a position. "If the General Assembly passes this bill, the governor will review it, in its final form, at that time," McDonnell spokesman Tucker Martin said.
Meanwhile, critics of bills to curb abortion rights continue their resistance. Another abortion-rights rally at the Capitol is planned for Thursday, and today, opponents will show their heft by presenting petitions with more than 30,000 signatures against ultrasound and personhood legislation to McDonnell's office.