By Matthew A. Ward
PORTSMOUTH, Va., March 1 (Reuters) - Virginia
lawmakers on Thursday approved amendments to a bill that would
force women to have an ultrasound before an abortion, clearing
the way for the state's Republican governor, Bob McDonnell, to
sign the controversial legislation.
The new law would require that a woman be offered the chance
to view the ultrasound image at an abortion clinic and force the
clinic to keep a copy of the image in the woman's medical record
for seven years.
McDonnell, an abortion opponent who is seen as a contender
for his party's 2012 vice presidential nomination, is expected
to sign the bill. He demanded last month it be amended to remove
a provision requiring invasive vaginal ultrasounds before an
The Republican-controlled House of Delegates voted to make
the invasive vaginal ultrasound optional in cases where fetal
age could not be determined by an abdominal ultrasound, which is
usually the case in the first trimester of pregnancy, according
It also approved another amendment exempting women from the
requirement in cases where pregnancy resulted from rape or
incest and was reported to police.
While women's rights groups and state Democrats were livid
about the vaginal ultrasound clause, some Republican lawmakers
suggested a woman should not be concerned about a probe when she
is having an abortion, itself an invasive procedure.
Proponents say the overall ultrasound concept is intended to
give women as much information as possible before making a final
decision. Others say its only intent is to dissuade women from
seeking abortions, which are legal in the United States.
After the amended legislation passed the state Senate by a
21-19 vote on Wednesday, a spokesman for McDonnell said the
governor "looks forward to approving a common-sense ultrasound
measure in the Commonwealth."
Six other states have passed laws requiring abortion
providers to perform ultrasounds, according to the Guttmacher
Institute, which studies reproductive health issues.
While most of those states allow women to decline to view
the image, Texas, Oklahoma and North Carolina require women to
hear the provider's verbal description of the ultrasound.
The laws in Oklahoma and North Carolina have been challenged
in court, but an appeals court cleared the way for Texas to
begin enforcing its law in January.
(Editing by Colleen Jenkins and Paul Simao)
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