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Virginia Senate Committee Votes to Block Repeal of Ultrasound Law

On Thursday, a committee controlled by Republicans in the Virginia State Senate voted by a count of 8-7 to block the efforts of the Democrats to repeal a new mandatory ultrasound law and set of regulations that would close abortion clinics in the state.

The same committee voted against an anti-abortion bill that would have prevented Medicaid from paying for abortions of low-income women for instances of severe fetal anomaly. Early on in 2012, Republicans in Virginia received criticism from around the country when they proposed a bill that would require women to undergo transvaginal ultrasounds prior to having an abortion. The bill was revised with the help of Governor Bob McDonnell to require external ultrasounds. That version of the bill was signed into law by McDonnell.

A bill was proposed by State Sen. Ralph Northam (D), the only physician in the senate, that would have repealed mandatory ultrasounds. He said that they violate the privacy and sanctity of doctor-patient relationships. “I am giving you the opportunity to right the wrong committed last year,” he told committee members on Thursday.

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Agreeing with the concerns of Northam, The Medical Society of Virginia and the Virginia American College of Obstetricians testified to repeal the bill. The president for the Family Foundation of Virginia, Victoria Cobb, said during her testimony at the hearing that those who provide abortions ‘hide the picture’ of the ultrasound so the women do not have a chance to change their minds. She said that this increases profits.

The ultrasound law and abortion clinic regulations, called the Targeted Regulation of Abortion Providers (TRAP), were blocked in the vote by the Senate Health and Education Committee. The sponsor of the bill to repeal TRAP was State Senator Mark Herring, a Democrat. He said, “What [the committee] did was wrong. I think the votes today indicate that Republicans still have an extreme agenda, and they’re intent on reducing access to women’s health care.”

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