Va. Senate OKs Pre-Abortion Ultrasounds; Women Wouldn't Be Required to View Image under 'Informed-Consent' Bill

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Byline: David Sherfinski, THE WASHINGTON TIMES

RICHMOND -- The Virginia Senate on Wednesday approved a bill requiring women to undergo ultrasound imaging before they have an abortion - the most aggressive measure on reproductive rights that has cleared the upper chamber thus far in the 2012 session.

The measure passed 21-18, with two Democrats voting for the bill and one Republican opposing it.

Proponents argue that the bill simply supplements the state's informed-consent laws and helps determine the gestational age of the baby, while opponents say it's an unnecessary intrusion into what should be a personal medical decision. Women would have the opportunity to view the ultrasound, but would not be required to do so.

It would merely bring in line the current informed-consent rules with current reproductive technology, said Sen. Jill Holtzman Vogel, Fauquier Republican and the bill's sponsor. It is not invasive. It does not intend to infringe in any way on the doctor-patient relationship. It doesn't compel you to see the results. It just offers that option to provide informed consent.

Sen. Ralph S. Northam, Norfolk Democrat, said the last thing the General Assembly needs to be doing is telling physicians how to practice medicine.

I teach medical ethics to students, to residents, said Mr. Northam, a children's neurologist. Telling a patient they need to have a procedure against their will - I would suggest to them that it's unethical. It is allowing the government to get in the lives of providers, such as myself.

The debate took a somewhat satirical turn Monday, when Sen. Janet D. Howell, Fairfax Democrat, unsuccessfully tried to attach an amendment to the bill that would require men to undergo a cardiac stress test and rectal examination before receiving prescription drugs for erectile dysfunction If conservatives insist on putting government regulation in between a woman and her doctor, I want to take a stand, she said. We need some gender equity here.

But Gov. Bob McDonnell, a Republican who sponsored such a measure a decade ago while in the House of Delegates, said the bill is simple common sense.

I think it gives full information, he said this week on WTOP Radio's Ask the Governor program. An ultrasound - it's modern technology, the costs have been driven down. To be able to have that information before making what most people would say is a very important, serious, life-changing decision, I think is appropriate. …