The Republican-led Virginia Senate passed a bill Wednesday by a vote of 21-18 that would require women to undergo an ultrasound before having an abortion.

The Senate, which for years had killed similar measures, voted largely along party lines.

The House of Delegates, now with a hefty 68-member GOP caucus, has passed the bill in previous sessions and is expected to do so again. Gov. Bob McDonnell (R) has said he would sign the measure.

The vote came after a lengthy and impassioned debate by Democrats who argued that the bill — and many others working their way through the legislature’s 60-day session — are designed to discourage women from having abortions.

The vote was immediately met with praise and criticism.

 “We are very pleased that the state Senate has recognized the need to update our existing informed consent practice with the most advanced medical technology available, including an ultrasound,'' said Victoria Cobb, president of the conservative Family Foundation. "The majority of Virginians see this proposal as reasonable and common sense.'' 

The ultrasound bill is the first abortion bill to come to the full Senate for a vote since the session began. It would require a pregnant woman to undergo ultrasound imaging to determine the gestational age of the fetus, but would not require them to view it.

"These bills are not what Virginians had in mind when they elected Virginia Republicans to lead in Richmond,'' said Brian Moran, chairman of the state Democratic Party. "Middle class families need leaders who are focused on jobs, education and transportation, not on trying to wedge their way into health care decisions that should be between a woman and her doctor."