July 5, 2012 — A controversial Virginia law requiring women to receive an ultrasound before an abortion went into effect on Sunday, the Richmond Times-Dispatch reports (Richmond Times-Dispatch, 7/1).
The original version of the legislation would have forced some women to undergo vaginal ultrasounds. After a contentious debate that drew national attention to the requirement, Gov. Bob McDonnell (R) directed lawmakers to specify that the ultrasound would be external, not vaginal. He signed the amended version (HB 462) into law on March 7.
The law also includes a provision that exempts rape and incest survivors from the ultrasound requirement if they have reported the crime to law enforcement (Women's Health Policy Report, 3/8).
According to NARAL Pro-Choice Virginia, the law requires a physician to offer a woman an opportunity to view the ultrasound image and listen to the fetal heartbeat. If she refuses, she must sign a waiver that will be kept in her medical record for seven years. The ultrasound must be performed 24 hours prior to the abortion procedure unless the woman can prove she lives at least 100 miles from the facility.
The state has compiled a list of facilities that provide no-cost ultrasounds, but many of the facilities are antiabortion crisis pregnancy centers, which are not bound by HIPAA privacy rules and are often run by volunteers who are not medical professionals (NARAL Pro-Choice Virginia release, 7/2).