Revised Abortion Bill Sent to Virginia Governor

Thursday, 01 Mar 2012 10:40 PM


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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 abortion.

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 to experts.

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)

© 2014 Thomson/Reuters. All rights reserved.

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