Virginia’s Potential Ultrasound Law

               Well, it looks like Virginia might be jumping on the required ultrasound bandwagon. As we mention earlier this week, the most extreme required ultrasound law exists in Texas, where not only do doctors have to give patients an ultrasound, they also have to describe the image and make the fetal heartbeat audible. Awesome right? While Texas is the only state to require forcing the doctor show the ultrasound, they are far from the only state to require an ultrasound be preformed. According to the Guttmacher Institute, at present, 6 states require ultrasounds to be preformed. Nine more require that if an ultrasound is performed, then the doctor must offer the patient an opportunity to see it. Keyword here is offer.

                Now Virginia lawmakers are jumping on board and they aren’t being tentative about it. There are currently 2 different required ultrasound bills in committee in the Virginia Legislature. Both were submitted this week by 2 different lawmakers. The more extreme of the two was submitted by Delegate Mark L. Cole (R- Fredericksburg). This law requires that patients give written informed consent before they can get an abortion done and part of that “informed consent” is having an ultrasound done and offer the patient the opportunity to view the image. The ultrasound according to this bill must be done at least 48 hours before the procedure is done unless there is a medical emergency. Apparently forcing patients to have a medically unnecessary ultrasound isn’t enough for Del. Cole, no he seems to think people seeking abortions haven’t actually thought about the decision yet.

                The second bill was introduced by Delegate Kathy J. Byron (R- Campbell County) and also requires written informed consent and an ultrasound be preformed and the image offered to the patient. Her bill only requires a two hour waiting period from the time the ultrasound is done to the time of the procedure. Her bill is clearly the lesser of two evils because at least it won’t require two trips on the part of the patient. This is especially important in Virginia because the trap laws recently enacted there have the potential to close most if not all the clinics in the state making it harder for patients to get to a clinic for even just one appointment much less a second appointment.

                This is the fifth time Delegate Byron has introduced an ultrasound bill to committee, each time getting the bill passed by the state House of Delegates. The state Senate Education and Health Committee however, never let the bill out to the floor. The most recent election however, changed the Senate population and the Committee will have a stronger Republican influence this year than it did in past years, so if either bill makes it through the House, it may well pass at least the Senate committee.

                If either bill passes and is then signed into law it will be a ridiculous intrusion into the medical care of people seeking abortions. Sadly, there is a strong chance that at least one of them will pass because as the recently enacted TRAP laws prove, Virginia has a pretty conservative government.

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