Va. governor backs off ultrasound bill

Feb. 22, 2012 at 5:48 PM
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RICHMOND, Va., Feb. 22 (UPI) -- Virginia's Republican Gov. Bob McDonnell says he no longer supports requiring a woman to have an invasive form of ultrasound before an abortion.

McDonnell, who opposes abortion, says he now favors the less invasive external sonogram instead of the more invasive transvaginal ultrasound in which a device is inserted into the vagina, USA Today reported Wednesday. Until last weekend, McDonnell said he would sign a bill requiring the more controversial procedure, The Washington Post said.

Virginia House Republican leaders were expected to amend the bill Wednesday afternoon to reflect McDonnell's change, the Post said.

In an "I am pro-life statement," McDonnell said: "Over the past days I have discussed the specific language of the proposed legislation with other governors, physicians, attorneys, legislators, advocacy groups and citizens. It is apparent that several amendments to the proposed legislation are needed to address various medical and legal issues which have arisen.

"It is clear that in the majority of cases, a routine external, transabdominal ultrasound is sufficient to meet the bill's stated purpose, that is, to determine gestational age. I have come to understand that the medical practice and standard of care currently guide physicians to use other procedures to find the gestational age of the child, when abdominal ultrasounds cannot do so. Determining gestational age is essential for legal reasons, to know the trimester of the pregnancy in order to comply with the law, and for medical reasons as well.

"Thus, having looked at the current proposal, I believe there is no need to direct by statute that further invasive ultrasound procedures be done," he added. "Mandating an invasive procedure in order to give informed consent is not a proper role for the state. No person should be directed to undergo an invasive procedure by the state, without their consent, as a precondition to another medical procedure."

The state House and Senate approved their versions of the bill. But the House Tuesday postponed a final vote on the legislation for the second day in a row.

The Post said lawmakers and the governor's staff met Tuesday night to strike a compromise after learning some ultrasounds could be more invasive than first thought.

The Virginia legislation has become part of the broader national debate over reproductive rights.

U.S. House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., said she learned House Republican leaders had refused to allow a hearing about contraception that she planned for Thursday to be televised. The hearing was to include a female law student prohibited from testifying about contraception at an all-male House committee hearing last week.

Pelosi aides said the House recording studio denied a request to broadcast the hearing, "apparently" on orders from the Republican-controlled Committee on House Administration, Politico reported.

Pelosi spokesman Drew Hammill said the committee lifted restrictions on use of the studio in July 2008.

"If Chairman [Dan] Lungren [R-Calif.] has reversed this policy, he has done so in secret and not consulted with CHA Democrats," Hammill told Politico in an e-mail.

"This leaves us only to think that the House Republican leadership is acting out yet again to silence women on the topic of women's health," he said.

Republican committee spokeswoman Salley Wood said the policy wasn't changed in 2008 and the recording studio still operates under 2005 policies.

The hearing, with testimony by Georgetown University law student Sandra Fluke, would be the first time the studio has not covered a hearing or told Democrats it couldn't because of other commitments, Pelosi's office said.

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