Governor Robert F. McDonnell (R) signed into law Wednesday a bill that will require women to undergo ultrasounds before they have abortions. It will go into effect July 1.
“Women have a right to know all the available medical and legal information surrounding the abortion decision before giving legally effective informed consent,’’ McDonnell said in a statement. “As difficult as an abortion decision is, the information provided by ultrasounds, along with other information given by the doctor pursuant to current law and prevailing medical practice, can help the mother make a fully informed decision.”
The General Assembly approved a modified version of the proposal after McDonnell asked legislators to revise the bill following protests in Richmond’s Capitol Square and repeated mocking on national television.
The original proposal would have mandated that women undergo a transvaginal ultrasound, a procedure that requires a probe be inserted into the vagina. The final version says invasive ultrasounds are voluntary and exempts women who have reported to law enforcement agencies that they are victims of rape or incest.
The House passed the 61-35 and the Senate 21-19.
Read McDonnell’s full statement below:
“The issue of abortion raises passionate feelings among many Virginians, based on one’s own views on life and liberty. While debates in the legislature over the decades may seem to indicate there is no common ground to be found on this issue, I believe that areas of agreement can and do exist. Most agree that a woman’s decision to seek an abortion is difficult, irreversible and life-altering. Nearly everyone agrees that reducing the number of abortions is a laudable goal. I believe that we become a more compassionate society when we enact reasonable legislation to protect innocent human life.
“Women have a right to know all the available medical and legal information surrounding the abortion decision before giving legally effective informed consent. Informed consent is already required prior to an abortion being performed in Virginia, based on the longstanding health care concept that complete information about a medical procedure must be given to a patient before she can freely consent to a procedure. As difficult as an abortion decision is, the information provided by ultrasounds, along with other information given by the doctor pursuant to current law and prevailing medical practice, can help the mother make a fully informed decision.
“This bill does not legally alter a woman’s ability to make a choice regarding her pregnancy. 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.
“I previously recommended amendments to the legislature to remove any requirement in this bill for a state mandated internal ultrasound procedure, and the General Assembly agreed that amendments were necessary. I do not believe any woman should be required by the state to undergo such an ultrasound, without her consent, as a precondition to another medical procedure. The bill I signed today ensures that will not occur.
“As I have for 21 years as a public servant, I consider it important to embrace a culture of life in our Commonwealth, and to protect the life and liberty of all of our citizens. While we sometimes reach different policy conclusions in our great, free nation, let us continue to work together with respect and civility for the common good.”