Va. House Advances 'Personhood' Bill, Rejects Amendment to Ultrasound Measure

February 14, 2012 — The Virginia House of Delegates on Monday gave preliminary approval to a bill (HB 1) that would define fertilized eggs as people, the Washington Post's "Virginia Politics" reports (Kumar, "Virginia Politics," Washington Post, 2/13).

Democrats argued that the bill introduced by Del. Bob Marshall (R) would effectively outlaw abortion, as well as types of contraception that could prevent implantation of a fertilized egg. "The way that this bill is written is so broad that we're one step closer if we pass this to overruling Roe v. Wade," Del. Charniele Herring (D) said, adding that it "has implications on the right to privacy and on birth control" (Hester/Meola, Richmond Times-Dispatch, 2/14).

Marshall disputed those claims, saying the bill "does not have the [effect] of criminalizing birth control" and "does not directly affect abortion."

Last year, similar legislation passed in the House but was stopped in the Senate, which was controlled by the Democrats at the time. Supporters of the current measure hope the now GOP-controlled Senate will approve it this year. A final vote in the House is expected on Tuesday ("Virginia Politics," Washington Post, 2/13).

Ultrasound Bill Considered

The House on Tuesday also is expected to vote on a bill (HB 462) that would require a woman seeking abortion care to undergo an ultrasound and be given an opportunity to view and receive a copy of the image. The bill does not specify which type of ultrasound is required, which prompted Del. David Englin (D) to propose an amendment that would require a woman to give consent before undergoing a vaginal ultrasound.

"Most of us, when we think about an ultrasound, we think about what people refer to as the jelly on the belly ultrasound," Englin said, noting that sometimes vaginal ultrasounds are used early in pregnancy (Richmond Times-Dispatch, 2/14).

The amendment, which was rejected on a 64-34 vote, would have allowed health care providers to determine whether the image could be obtained without a vaginal ultrasound (AP/Washington Post, 2/13).

Va. Gov. McDonnell To Sign Breast Density Bill

In other Virginia news, Gov. Bob McDonnell (R) said he intends to sign legislation that would require radiologists to include information about breast density in post-mammogram letters to patients, the Washington Post reports. Both chambers of the General Assembly approved the legislation in unanimous votes earlier in the session.

Women with dense breast tissue might require additional screenings beyond mammograms because the tissue can make tumors difficult to spot. An earlier version of the legislation met resistance from radiologists in the state, who said women could be alarmed and seek unnecessary and expensive tests. The language was changed in the final measures to alert women that dense breast tissue "can hide cancer or other abnormalities" and to suggest that they contact their physician if they have questions (Vozzella, Washington Post, 2/13).