In a minute-long news brief on January 16, Michael Pope of Washington, D.C. public radio station WAMU misled listeners by noting that in 2012 Virginia Republicans passed and Gov. Bob McDonnell signed into law a bill requiring invasive transvaginal ultrasounds for women seeking abortions in the Old Dominion.
"The legislation passed, and now Alexandria Delegate Rob Krupicka, a Democrat, is co-sponsoring legislation to repeal it," Pope noted. The only problem, however, is that the legislation was amended before passage to scratch the requirement for transvaginal ultrasounds while still requiring abortion-seeking patients to obtain non-invasive abdominal ultrasounds. As the Reuters news wire reported on Feb. 29, 2012 (emphasis mine):
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The Virginia state Senate on Tuesday approved a law forcing a woman to have an ultrasound before an abortion but left out a provision harshly criticized by women's rights groups that might have required a more intrusive vaginal probe.
The vaginal probe proposal sparked an outcry last week and embarrassed Virginia's Republican Governor Bob McDonnell, who is high on the list of possible 2012 Republican vice presidential candidates.
In a rare political stumble for the popular governor, McDonnell, a staunch abortion opponent, withdrew his support for the vaginal probe clause minutes before it was to be debated by the Virginia House of Delegates.
The vaginal probe issue had arisen because some doctors said a heartbeat could not be detected in the first trimester of pregnancy using an abdominal ultrasound.
The state Senate approved the weaker ultrasound law by a 21 to 19 vote on Tuesday with an exemption for women whose pregnancy resulting from rape or incest is reported to police. The House, which had already approved the ultrasound law, will now consider the Senate amendments and then could send the proposed law to McDonnell for his signature.
The bill approved by the Senate would offer, rather than require, a woman undergo an additional invasive procedure such as a vaginal probe if the mandatory abdominal ultrasound fails to determine the age of the fetus.
The legislation in no way requires a transvaginal ultrasound. Period. What Krupicka wants to repeal is the abdominal ultrasound requirement.
But as Alana Goodman of Commentary magazine noted last February, the standard operating procedure of Planned Parenthood abortion clinics in Virginia is to require ultrasounds prior to abortions anyway, you know, so as to determine the gestational age of the unborn child:
The backlash against the new Virginia legislation requiring ultrasounds before an abortion procedure – which some have bizarrely compared to “forcible rape” – may be even more overblown than initially thought. Apparently, ultrasounds are already part of the abortion procedures at Virginia Planned Parenthoods.
The Virginia League for Planned Parenthood didn’t immediately return calls yesterday. But here’s what it said on the recording for its abortion services information hotline:
“Patients who have a surgical abortion generally come in for two appointments. At the first visit we do a health assessment, perform all the necessary lab work, and do an ultrasound. This visit generally takes about an hour. At the second visit, the procedure takes place. This visit takes about an hour as well. For out of town patients for whom it would be difficult to make two trips to our office, we’re able to schedule both the initial appointment and the procedure on the same day.
Medical abortions generally require three visits. At the first visit, we do a health assessment, perform all the necessary lab work, and do an ultrasound. This visit takes about an hour. At the second visit, the physician gives the first pill and directions for taking two more pills at home. The third visit is required during which you will have an exam and another ultrasound.”
From a health perspective, these ultrasounds are critical. They detect the exact age of the fetus, which often dictates which type of abortion procedure the woman can receive. They can also spot potential complications that could impact the procedure, like ectopic pregnancies. In clinics that don’t have access to ultrasound technology, sometimes pelvic exams can be used as a substitute. But those are arguably just as invasive as the transvaginal ultrasounds pro-choice activists are decrying.
In other words, the real reason pro-choicers oppose the law isn’t because of the “invasiveness” or “creepiness” of ultrasounds. It can’t be it. Virginia Planned Parenthood clinics already include them in its abortion procedures.