Republicans, in control of both chambers for only the second time since the Civil War, are looking to pass a slew of bills in the 60-day session that take on abortion. They include banning the procedure after 20 weeks of pregnancy, requiring that insurers that cover abortions also offer policies that do not, and giving rights to a fertilized egg at the moment of conception. Another bill, which will be debated in the House of Delegates on Thursday, would end state subsidies for poor women to abort fetuses that have serious birth defects.
The House has been pushing the abortion legislation for years but only now has sympathetic partners in the Senate and the governor’s mansion.
The House is expected to easily pass the ultrasound bill in the coming weeks. Gov. Robert F. McDonnell (R), who opposes abortion rights, has already said he would sign it into law.
The measure passed Wednesday would require a woman to undergo an ultrasound to determine the gestation age of the fetus and be given an opportunity to view the pictures. A woman who refuses to view the ultrasound would have to sign a statement — which would become a part of her medical file — saying she was given the option. The bill also would require the abortion provider to keep a printed copy of the image in the patient’s file.
McDonnell, a rising star in his party and a possible vice presidential contender, has been uncharacteristically outspoken in his support of the ultrasound bill and other abortion proposals that are likely to come to his desk. As a delegate, he introduced a bill, now law, that requires providers to receive written permission from a woman before performing an abortion.
‘Legitimate health issue’
Supporters of the ultrasound measure say it would provide crucial medical information to women seeking abortions, while opponents say it would subject women to unnecessary tests and invade their privacy.
“It’s a legitimate health issue,” said Sen. Jill Holtzman Vogel (R-Winchester), who sponsored the legislation.
Vogel also said the measure “does not infringe on a woman’s decision, her autonomy.” She added: “It is not invasive. It does not attempt to infringe in any way on the doctor-patient relationship, and it absolutely does not infringe on her right to have an abortion.”
The Senate voted 21 to 18 in favor of the ultrasound bill, largely along party lines, with a pair of Democrats who oppose abortion rights voting with 19 Republicans. One Democrat was absent. Sen. John C. Watkins (R-Chesterfield) voted against it.