Effort To Repeal Va. Ultrasound Law Dies in House

February 19, 2014 — A Virginia House subcommittee on Friday rejected a bill (SB 617) that would have repealed a state law requiring ultrasounds before abortions, the Richmond Times-Dispatch reports. According to the Times-Dispatch, the move effectively ends the bill's chances of advancing this year (Nolan, Richmond Times-Dispatch, 2/15).

Last week, the state Senate approved the bill in a 21-20 vote, with Lt. Gov. Ralph Northam (D) casting a tiebreaking vote to pass the measure. The bill was not expected to pass the Republican-controlled state House (Women's Health Policy Report, 2/12).

The House Courts of Justice Criminal Law subcommittee rejected the bill without a roll-call vote or audience testimony. State Delegate Robert Bell (R), the panel's chair, said testimony would not be permitted because ample discussions were conducted in previous meetings. A motion to allow testimony was defeated.

Bill Sponsor Comments

The subcommittee's rejection of the measure also shields lawmakers in the full House -- where Republicans hold a 2-1 majority -- from having to cast a recorded vote on the measure.

In a statement on Thursday, state Sen. Mamie Locke (D), the bill's sponsor, criticized how the matter was handled in the House and suggested that assigning it to a criminal subcommittee on the last day of the week was a move to ensure there would "not be a fair 'hearing.'"

Locke said the move was "merely a tactic by the House to have this bill quickly go away and once again say to the women of Virginia that they must undergo an unnecessary medical procedure whether they want to or not, all in an effort to prevent women from making a decision with her family and physician about what medical care she should receive" (Richmond Times-Dispatch, 2/15).