The Senate, which tipped over to Democratic control in January after a special election, split down the middle on the repeal, with 20 senators voting for repeal and 20 voting against. Newly elected Lt. Gov. Ralph Northam, a physician, cast the deciding vote in favor of repeal.
But in the House of Delegates, where Republicans hold a 67-32 majority, a similar measure is almost certain to fail. Last week, the House Constitutional Law Subcommittee killed a repeal bill on a 6-2 party-line vote.
The bill's original wording, before it was passed and signed by then-Gov. Bob McDonnell, a Republican, required women seeking abortions to undergo a trans-vaginal ultrasound. The "state-sanctioned rape" measure raised ire nationwide, the latest in a series of tone-deaf Republican moves that included Todd Akin's "legitimate rape" comments, and was struck before the bill passed.
"We all recall how Virginia became the laughing stock of the nation," state Sen. John Edwards, D-Roanoke, said Tuesday. "Let's not have the hubris, the arrogance of telling physicians what they should do."
As implemented, women seeking abortion in Virginia are only required to have the standard "jelly on the belly" ultrasound.
"I don't think the law inconveniences anyone," said State Sen. Dick Black, R-Leesburg, who voted against repeal.
Despite the likelihood the repeal will fail, supporters praised the efforts of Democrats to raise the issue.
"Those Senators who stood with women today and voted to repeal the medically unnecessary ultrasound requirement have shown they understand the will of Virginia voters," said Cianti Stewart-Reid, executive director of Planned Parenthood Advocates of Virginia. "This law is an appalling and offensive government overreach. It’s not about women’s health care; it’s about shaming and preventing women from seeking safe, legal health care."
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