Gov. Bob McDonnell backed off on the Virginia abortion ultrasound bill. His requested amendments to the House of Delegates took vaginal ultrasound off the table and the bill passed in a vote of 65-32.
It is important to put this change in perspective.
The initial wording of the bill did not mention vaginal ultrasound, it specified an ultrasound most “appropriate” for determining gestational age. For many women that would have meant a vaginal probe, as a vaginal ultrasound is often the most accurate way to determine gestational age in the 1rst trimester. While some women will avoid a vaginal probe because of these changes, many women getting a 1rst trimester will get a vaginal ultrasound as part of their routine pre-abortion care. So, it is hard to know how many vaginal ultrasounds will actually be avoided by the changes.
In my opinion, changing the bill to expressly exclude transvaginal ultrasound doesn’t improve it much and all the focus on the potential increase in vaginal ultrasounds detracted from other egregious aspects:
- Politicians are still stipulating how a medical procedure should be performed (the ultrasound requirement). That’s wrong. Medical care should be between a patient and her provider.
- The added cost that a potentially unnecessary ultrasound imparts. Studies tells us that many 1rst trimester ultrasounds could actually be avoided.
- The 24 hour delay between getting the ultrasound and having the abortion. Unless of course you live 100 miles a way, then a 2 hour window between ultrasound and procedure is acceptable. The cost and inconvenience of taking an extra day off of work or arranging another day of childcare, never mind the cost of gas for women living 30 or more miles from their provider is obscene. Most counties (88%) have no abortion provider and 97% of non-metropolitan areas are without an abortion provider. This bill unfairly disadvantages women based on geography.
The medical evidence indicates that cost and geographic location do not affect choice with regards to abortion, they only delay the procedure until funds and transportation can be secured. Therefore, this bill can serve no other purpose other than one or all of the following:
- Punishment of women who choose abortion
- Imposing the religious beliefs of one group on another
- Political posturing in an election year
- Legislation (and rather poor legislation at that) of the practice of medicine
There is one silver lining. People made a lot of noise and it clearly had some impact. Not enough, but some.
And the people who made that noise vote.