Four bills before the 2012 Virginia General Assembly regarding sonograms and abortions have forced people to choose sides.
According to the Capital News Service, two Republican backed bills were introduced in the House of Delegates that would mandate ultrasound testing before an abortion. House Bill 261, filed by Del. Mark Cole from Fredericksburg, would require ultrasound testing at least 48 hours before the abortion is performed. HB 462, filed by Del. Kathy Byron from Lynchburg proposes that fetal ultrasound imaging be done at least two hours before an abortion. In addition, the sound of the fetus’s heart would be examined in another effort to determine the gestational age of the fetus, according to CNS.
Olivia Gans, president of the Virginia Society of Human Life, told Patch the organization supports the ultrasound bill.
"We see this as a sensible extension of the 'Women's Right to Know' Informed Consent law in Virginia. Doctors should give women a chance to see the image of their own child in the womb before she makes this permanent life and death decision for that baby," she said.
In the past, many bills restricting abortion rights have been killed in the Democratic-controlled Senate, according to CNS, but recent Republican gains in the upper chamber increase the odds that such legislation will pass this session.
Republicans in the Senate also introduced bills pushing for ultrasounds for women seeking abortions. Sen. Ralph Smith of Roanoke sponsored Senate Bill 279 and Sen. Jill Vogel of Winchester proposed SB 484. Gans said it's possible the two House bills will combine, as will the two Senate bills in order to go forward.
Rose Codding, director of patient services at the Falls Church Healthcare Center, said the sonogram legislation being considered in Virginia is insulting to women. In an open letter written to Virginia legislators, Codding said the bills are not related to medical necessity and they disregard women's feelings and wishes. She said they are not related to good healthcare and disregards physician’s expertise and specialized training.
"If ACOG (American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists) or our NAF (National Abortion Federation) made that a standard based on appropriate medical evidence that would be one thing," Codding said in a statement to Patch. "But laws that mandate specifics on medical treatment bypassing the medical experts is wrong and an intrusion on the doctors practice and the patient's rights."
For more than a decade, FCHC has provided reproductive health care in Virginia. Codding said the center's staff understands that facing an unplanned pregnancy is about much more than a medical experience for women. What legislators are doing in Virginia is cruel and unjust to women and it is embarrassing in light of what America is supposed to stand for to the rest of the world, she said. Women will do whatever it takes to get an abortion when they want or need one, she said.
At FCHC, Codding said they routinely provide ultrasounds for gynecological care as needed and for all pregnancy related services including miscarriage management, gestational age determination and abortion care to get a supported clinical understanding of the reproductive systems of the patient and to help develop appropriate care plans. All medically provided testing and screenings are always kept as part of a patient’s medical record, she said.
Gans said doctors should give women a chance to see the image of their own child in the womb before she makes a permanent life and death decision for that baby.
"Ultrasound technology is routinely used by abortionists to identify where the unborn baby is and the size and age of that baby," Gans said. "It will not be a burden on doctors to allow women to look at that image too."