Mandatory ultrasound laws are sadly not a new concept in the world of anti abortion legislation. A few states already have them on the books, including Texas where the State Supreme Court recently upheld the law in spite of the fact that it requires doctors to lie to their patients about the risks of abortions as well as show their patients the image of the ultrasound. When a pregnancy is in the earliest gestational time frames (when most abortions occur) a transvaginal ultrasound is needed to get an accurate result. This means that in states with these laws women are forced to have a transvaginal ultrasound even though they are medically unnecessary to ensuring a successful procedure.
The Virginia legislature has passed an ultrasound mandate and specifically blocked an amendment to the bill that would allow women to consent to the ultrasound before the procedure. The bill does not include an exemption for women who were raped. So in essence they would have to be raped twice if they wanted to have an abortion. Activists in the world of reproductive rights have been opposing such laws since they were first proposed.
Finally it seems the main stream media is jumping on board with opposing these laws and more importantly, it looks like the negative attention might be working. The Rachel Maddow show has covered anti-abortion legislation on a regular basis, including ultrasound laws. The Daily Show with Jon Stewart and Saturday Night Live also recently aired skits that pointed out the absurdity of these laws. Along with television, online activism is having an impact too. A protest was organized with in just a few days on Facebook and over a thousand protester showed up outside the Virginia Capitol building for a silent protest against the invasive law.
Following the media backlash and demonstration against the law, reports are coming out saying that although he had previously promised to sign the bill, Governor McDonnell is backing away from that promise and is recommending an amendment that will require only an abdominal ultrasound. Although this is still a massive intrusion onto women’s rights, it is at least a step in the right direction and it shows the power people have when they stand up for their rights. The Virginia Senate still has to opportunity to vote against the bill for final approval so we will see what happens.
While all of this has been going on, the state legislature in Pennsylvania has been considering its own ultrasound mandate. Hopefully all the national attention the Virginia bill is getting will cause Pennsylvania lawmakers to think twice.