Va. governor signs mandatory ultrasound law before abortions

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After weeks of contentious debate that garnered national attention, last week Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell signed into law a bill that would make abdominal ultrasounds mandatory for women seeking abortions in the state.

All Virginia abortion providers would need to comply starting July 1, or incur a $2,500 fine per violation, according to the Associated Press. Patients living within 100 miles of the abortion clinic must wait 24 hours after the ultrasound before having an abortion, and women must be offered a chance to see the images, but can’t be forced to view them. Victims of rape or incest are exempt.

The law signed by McDonnell differs from earlier versions of the bill which would have required an invasive, transvaginal sonogram. An amendment later changed the requirement to an abdominal sonogram.

In a statement, McDonnell said the “information provided by ultrasounds…can help the mother make a fully informed decision.”

Critics of the bill, however, said the law takes decisions about whether to perform an ultrasound out of the physician's and patient’s hands, and that the intent is to deter abortion procedures through shame. In a column for Forbes, contributor Rick Ungar points out that the law also goes against recommendations from the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG).

“According to the ACOG, ultrasonography in pregnancy should be performed only when there is a valid medical indication,” he wrote. “In 2009, the organization specifically stated, ‘The use of either two-dimensional or three-dimensional ultrasonography only to view the fetus, obtain a picture of the fetus, or determine the fetal sex without a medical indication is inappropriate and contrary to responsible medical practice.’”