"Laws that increase barriers to abortion create hardships for the women seeking the procedure but they do nothing to lower the abortion rate."
Virginia lawmakers once again put off voting on a highly controversial bill mandating that women seeking abortions be required to get a trans-vaginal ultrasound, “a procedure in which a foot-long probe is inserted into the womb” which many are calling “state-sanctioned rape,” according to the AFP. Neither women, nor their doctors would be able to opt out of the procedure (which is medically unnecessary, meaning the women would have to pay out of pocket) and the image would be kept on file for seven years.
Monday – Presidents’ Day – saw a massive protest outside the state’s capitol in which up to 1500 women stood silently, locked arm-in-arm against such extremist legislation, reports the AP. Other legislation being considered would cut state aid to poor women who are seeking abortions, and would define embryos as human and “criminalize their destruction.”
The Washington Examiner says that most Virginians – 58 percent – oppose the ultrasound bill, and that while Republicans have avoided Democratic efforts to scrap it completely, “women’s rights groups are optimistic it’s enough to force a significant overhaul of legislation before it's sent to Gov. Bob McDonnell.”
Both Virginia’s House and Senate have already passed the bill, but AP said on Monday that the bill was awaiting passage by the Senate Education and Health Committee.
According to The Guardian in an extensive story on the Virginia legislation, the forced ultrasound bill could actually constitute a sex crime. Democrats are hoping to show Republicans that the ultrasounds will “criminalise doctors under a local statute known as object sexual penetration (OSP), which carries a five-year jail sentence.”
“It is very difficult to look at the bill and look at the OSP statute together and think that you are not asking doctors to commit a sex crime," Democratic delegate David Englin said.
Charniele Herring, another Democratic delegate, is also concerned about according the fetus personhood status, saying it would criminalize the use of FDA-approved contraception in the state.
Dr. Jen Gunter, whose blog post on pre-abortion ultrasounds is cited by The Guardian, notes a 2009 study in which 73 percent of women who had pre-abortion ultrasounds opted to see the image, and not one of them changed their mind. They all went through with the abortion.
“Opted” seems to be a key word here. The Examiner reports that Charniele Herring may present an amendment making the ultrasound procedure optional.
Options? For American women? What is this, the 21st century?
Yesterday evening brought news of a potential change of heart among Virginia lawmakers. They’re once again reviewing the law, and say they were unaware of how invasive the procedure was before recommending it. So, that’s awesome. We love it when people make important decisions for us without first researching the subject. Maybe we should just do away with the approval process for medical procedures altogether, and let these guys police the hospitals and clinics.
Gov. McDonnell’s office reports that the governor is taking another look at this bill, as well. According to a spokesperson for the governor, McDonnell’s not so keen on signing the bill in its current state, and was scheduled to meet with delegates to discuss a compromise last night. What sort of compromise is unclear.
“Our position is: If the General Assembly passes this bill the governor will review it, in its final form, at that time,” McDonnell spokesman Tucker Martin said in a statement.
“Something is happening,’’ Jessica Honke, a lobbyist for Planned Parenthood Advocates of Virginia, said hopefully. “It’s important for [the governor] to take a long, hard look before he actually does this.”
Let’s hope she’s right.