February 29, 2012 — The Virginia Senate on Tuesday voted 21-19 to approve an amended version of a bill (HB 462) that would require women to receive an external ultrasound before abortion care, the Washington Post reports. Last week, Gov. Bob McDonnell (R) directed lawmakers to specify that the ultrasound would be external after it became clear that women seeking abortion care in the first trimester likely would have to undergo a more invasive vaginal ultrasound (Kumar, Washington Post, 2/28).
The Senate also added an amendment, offered by Sen. Janet Howell (D), that would exempt rape and incest survivors from the ultrasound requirement if they have reported the crime to law enforcement. Senators rejected Howell's other amendments, including one that would have required health insurers to cover the cost of the ultrasound.
Because of the amendments, the bill must go back to the House of Delegates for another vote, according to the Roanoke Times. McDonnell has said he will sign the legislation (Minium, Roanoke Times, 2/28).
Other States Considering Similar Ultrasound Legislation
Should the governor sign the bill into law, Virginia would become the eighth state to require ultrasounds before abortion care and require a physician to offer to describe the fetus to a woman, the New York Times reports.
The "furor" over the Virginia bill has prompted lawmakers in states such as Alabama and Idaho to try to avoid accusations that their legislation would require women to undergo an invasive procedure, the Times reports. For example, the sponsor of an ultrasound measure in Alabama has said he would seek to adjust language currently requiring that the scan produce the "clearest image," meaning that an internal ultrasound would have to be used. According to the Times, the Alabama measure includes some of the strongest restrictions on abortion care in the country. It would require the ultrasound screen to face the woman and the physician to narrate the images. Physicians who do not follow the rules would face felony charges.
Pending ultrasound legislation in Pennsylvania and Mississippi also would require detailed fetal images only available through an internal ultrasound (Eckholm/Severson, New York Times, 2/28).
Senate Rejects Repeal of HPV Vaccine Law
The state Senate on Monday voted 22-17 to defeat a bill (HB 1112) that would have repealed a 2007 state law requiring girls to receive the human papillomavirus vaccine before entering sixth grade, the Washington Post's "Virginia Politics" reports (Kumar, "Virginia Politics," Washington Post, 2/27). Senators voted to send the bill back to the Education and Health Committee for further study, a move that effectively ends the measure's chances for passage this year (Nolan, Richmond Times-Dispatch, 2/27).
Virginia was the first state in the nation to mandate the HPV vaccine for female students after a federal advisory panel recommended it for 11- and 12-year-old girls in 2006 ("Virginia Politics," Washington Post, 2/27).
The House of Delegates on Jan. 27 approved legislation to repeal the law. Supporters of the bill -- including Del. Kathy Byron (R), who introduced the measure -- said that parents, rather than the government, should decide whether girls receive the vaccination (Women's Health Policy Report, 1/30).
Similar legislation has died in the Senate in previous years, but supporters had hoped it would fare better now that Republicans have control of the chamber (Kumar, Washington Post, 2/27).
Senate Committee Kills Bill To Restrict Abortion Funding for Low-Income Women
The Senate Finance Committee on Tuesday voted to reject a bill (HB 62) that would have ended state financial support for low-income women seeking abortion services if the fetus had severe abnormalities, the Washington Post's "Virginia Politics" reports (Vozzella, "Virginia Politics," Washington Post, 2/28). The bill would have applied to cases in which a doctor had determined the fetus "would be born with a gross and totally incapacitating physical deformity or mental deficiency" (Women's Health Policy Report, 2/1).
The bill had passed the full House and the Senate Education and Health Committee earlier in February, but the full Senate sent it to the Finance committee for review. The committee's staff said it was not clear how to determine the bill's financial impact because the state likely would bear the long-term costs of providing health care and other services for the children if women decided to give birth ("Virginia Politics," Washington Post, 2/28).