Virginia Considers Ultrasound Bill
Special Report - February 29, 2012
A bill approved by a the Virginia State Senate yesterday to require women seeking an abortion to first have an ultrasound is receiving national attention after opponents claimed the sometimes necessary vaginal ultrasound is akin to “rape.” HB 462Abortion; informed consent, shall undergo ultrasound imaging passed the Virginia House on Senate 2119 on February 28. Earlier this week, the Virginia Senate Education and Health Committee this week amended the bill to only require women to receive a “transabdominal ultrasound,” and to be offered (an offer which they may refuse) other ultrasound imaging if the gestational age of the unborn child can only be determined by a vaginal ultrasound. On February 14, the Virginia State House approved an earlier more controversial version of the bill by a 6336 vote. The bill must now be reconsidered for concurrence by the House before going to the Governor for final approval. If signed into law, HB 462 will also require that all pregnant women in Virginia seeking an abortion be given the opportunity to view the ultrasound performed to determine the age of the child and to hear the child’s heartbeat.
Interestingly, Planned Parenthood has stated that their own practice is to require ultrasounds before abortions in order to determine the gestational age of the child. Adrienne Schreiber, an official at Planned Parenthood’s Washington, D.C., regional office, is quoted in Commentary Magazine as saying, “That’s just the medical standard. To confirm the gestational age of the pregnancy, before any procedure is done, you do an ultrasound.” Schreiber went on to confirm that, “if the women won’t consent to the ultrasound, the abortion cannot take place, according to the group’s national standards.”
North Carolina passed similar legislation in 2011, the Woman’s Right to Know Act, which requires that women seeking an abortion be provided with complete and accurate information about the procedure and their unborn child, and wait 24 hours after receiving that information to procure an abortion. A U.S. District Court has preliminarily enjoined and prohibited from being enforced the portion of the law that would require an ultrasound and the presentation of certain information relating to the ultrasound to a woman before she could procure an abortion.
Planned Parenthood of Central NC opposed that bill and is one of the plaintiffs challenging the law. The group’s spokeswoman Paige Johnson told WRAL that their organization uses ultrasounds to “date” the pregnancy. Abortion is legal in North Carolina “during the first 20 weeks of a woman's pregnancy … when the procedure is performed by a physician licensed to practice medicine in North Carolina in a hospital or clinic certified by the Department of Health and Human Services to be a suitable facility for the performance of abortions.” After 20 weeks, abortion is legal in this state “if there is substantial risk that continuance of the pregnancy would threaten the life or gravely impair the health of the woman.”)
Johnson pointed out that vaginal ultrasounds are necessary in the cases of early pregnancies. According to Johnson, “90 percent of abortions are performed within the first 12 weeks.” According to Johnson, for North Carolina women, the new ultrasound requirement would not change their experience with ultrasounds at Planned Parenthood clinics, but now all abortion providers in the state would have to abide by that same policy. Johnson stated, “Before the law, if a woman didn’t want to undergo the scan, she could go elsewhere,” but that option would not be available if the currently enjoined section of the law goes into effect.
This common practice of performing ultrasounds before abortions was confirmed in a 2003 study published in the medical journal Contraception by the University of North Carolina. The Consortium of Planned Parenthood Abortion Providers, the National Abortion Federation, and IPAS found that at least 83 percent of abortion providers currently perform vaginal ultrasounds before performing abortions. The study found that 83 percent of the abortion providers surveyed “always performed [a vaginal ultrasound] before the early surgical abortion.” The study additionally found that more than nine in 10 (92 percent) of reporting sites “always” perform a vaginal ultrasound before a medical abortion. Finally, in the case of early medical abortions, nearly nine in 10 (87 percent) sites reported “always” performing a vaginal ultrasound. In each of these instances, only one site reported never performing a vaginal ultrasound before the abortion procedure.
Copyright © 2012. North Carolina Family Policy Council. All rights reserved.