Richmond, Va. Abdominal ultrasounds for women seeking abortions in Virginia will become mandatory under a bill signed into law Wednesday by the state’s Republican governor, who had faced a national uproar when earlier versions of the measure had sought to make the exams medically invasive.
The law conservative Gov. Bob McDonnell signed requires all Virginia abortion providers to comply starting July 1 or pay a $2,500 fine for each violation. Patients living within 100 miles of the clinic where the abortion is performed must wait 24 hours after the ultrasound examination before having an abortion. Victims of rape or incest who reported the attacks to police are exempt. Women must be offered the chance to view the ultrasound images but can’t be forced to see them.
The measure initially had sought to mandate a vaginally invasive form of an ultrasound, triggering a national uproar that resounded across political talk shows and TV comedy shows. A target of national political columnists, the original measure also was lampooned on “Saturday Night Live” and “The Daily Show with Jon Stewart.”
At issue in the measure promoted by anti-abortion lawmakers was an initial proposal requiring women seeking an abortion to undergo a transvaginal sonogram, in which a wand is inserted in the vagina to yield an image of the fetus. The procedure differs from an abdominal sonogram, in which a wand is rubbed over a woman’s belly.
Supporters say the law ensures women are fully informed about the gestational age of their fetuses as they decide whether to abort them. Seven states have laws mandating some form of pre-abortion ultrasound exam.