KHN Morning Briefing

Summaries of health policy coverage from major news organizations

Va. Considering New Abortion Ultrasound Bill After More Controversial Bill Pulled

Fallout over Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell's decision to pull support for a controversial ultrasound abortion bill continues as a similar piece of legislation, which would require a less-invasive ultrasound, winds through that state's legislature.

NPR: Virginia Governor Backs Down From Ultrasound Bill
Several states are considering laws that would mandate an ultrasound before a woman has an abortion. Critics say the laws are unnecessary and intrusive, and the debate reached a fever pitch recently over a Virginia bill that would have required an invasive ultrasound procedure. On Wednesday, Virginia's Republican governor, Bob McDonnell, asked legislators to back off and revise the House bill. Later that day, the Senate version of the bill was withdrawn by its sponsor. Now, a version of the bill that calls for a less invasive ultrasound is working its way through the Virginia General Assembly (Lohr, 2/23).

The Associated Press: Ridicule Helped Doom Va. Ultrasound Bill
Once the word "transvaginal" became a big joke on "Saturday Night Live" and "The Daily Show With Jon Stewart," it wasn't long before Virginia's conservative Republicans realized they had overreached on abortion. Gov. Bob McDonnell and GOP state lawmakers Wednesday abandoned a bill requiring women to undergo an intrusive type of sonogram before an abortion — an abrupt reversal that demonstrated the power of political satire and illustrated again how combustible the issue of women's reproductive health has become over the past few weeks (Lewis, 2/23).

Politico: Blogs Hit Bob McDonnell On Ultrasound Bill
The conservative blogosphere collectively bemoaned Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell's decision to withdraw his support for legislation requiring invasive ultrasounds to be performed before abortions. "Mandating an invasive procedure in order to give informed consent is not a proper role for the state. No person should be directed to undergo an invasive procedure by the state, without their consent, as a precondition to another medical procedure," said McDonnell in a statement Wednesday. Bloggers on the right expressed dismay – even feelings of betrayal – over the move (Mak, 2/23).

The Texas Tribune: In Texas and Va., Different Reactions to Sonogram Bills
The original Virginia bill that garnered so much national outrage required doctors to perform a sonogram in advance of the abortion, using a transvaginal ultrasound if necessary, to determine the gestational age of the fetus. ... The Texas law is more strict: It requires women to have a sonogram at least 24 hours ahead of an abortion, and the doctor to play the heartbeat aloud, describe the fetus, and show the woman the image, unless she chooses not to view it. Although the Texas law doesn't specify what kind of ultrasound — belly or transvaginal — abortion providers say they almost always must use the transvaginal probe to pick up the heartbeat and describe the fetus at the early stage of pregnancy when most women seek abortions (Ramshaw, 2/23).

In the meantime, a "personhood" bill in Virginia won't be considered before the 2012 election –

Politico: Virginia Stalls 'Personhood' Bill Until 2013
The Virginia state Senate sent a controversial "personhood" bill that would define life as starting at conception back to committee on Thursday, killing any chance of action on the measure before the 2012 election (Weinger, 2/23).

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