Gov. Bob McDonnell approved a controversial measure Wednesday that requires doctors to perform an abdominal ultrasound before nearly every abortion despite accusations that Virginia Republicans have instigated a war on women.
In signing the bill, McDonnell ended a weeks-long saga that drew national headlines and instigated mocking from Saturday Night Live and The Daily Show. Through it all, McDonnell, a strong pro-life conservative, remained adamant that the state was merely attempting to provide women with all the information needed to make a difficult decision.
“This bill does not legally alter a woman’s ability to make a choice regarding her pregnancy,” McDonnell said in a lengthy statement defending the signing. “It does, however, put Virginia in line with 23 other states that have some type of requirement that a woman be offered a view of an ultrasound before an abortion can be performed.”
McDonnell maneuvered behind the scenes to alter a previous version of the bill that he at one time supported. That bill would have guaranteed that most women would have to undergo a transvaginal ultrasound before every abortion because a majority of abortions are preformed early in a pregnancy when the jelly-on-the-belly procedure is not effective in determining the gestational age of a baby.
Public outrage and accusations that the bill was state-sponsored rape, instigated McDonnell’s changes, which specifies the state will only require the abdominal ultrasounds.
Still, opponents insist the bill as signed by McDonnell is worse. Instead of forcing an invasive procedure on a woman, the state is now asking doctors to perform an ultrasound that will likely yield no results just to put an obstacle between a patient and a legal procedure, Democrats said.
"The bill is an unprecedented invasion of privacy and government intrusion into the doctors’ offices and living rooms of Virginia women," said Tarina Keene, executive director of NARAL Pro-Choice Virginia. "Governor McDonnell’s unwillingness to listen to the thousands of women across the Commonwealth who are outraged by this political overreach into their lives shows nothing more than arrogance."
In some deference to opponents, rape victims are excluded from the new requirements.
A copy of the ultrasound will remain in the woman's medical file for seven years. Doctors are legally required to ask women if they want to view the ultrasound and listen to the audio of the heartbeat, even if the abortion is the result of a miscarriage.
Under McDonnell’s watch, Virginia has taken significant steps to curb abortions in the commonwealth. He previously signed off on new regulations that require clinics providing abortions to meet the same strict guidelines required of hospitals.
Republicans did, however, reject a so-called “personhood” bill that would have granted a fetus the same legal and civil rights as everyday citizens. The bill’s sponsor, Del. Bob Marshall, R-Manassas, blamed McDonnell for killing the bill for political purposes.