Less than a week after legislation that would’ve required Virginia women to undergo a transvaginal ultrasound faltered in the House of Delegates, another measure, House Bill 462, has passed the state Senate on a 21-19 vote.
H.B. 462, a near-replica of last week’s proposal by state Sen. Jill Holtzman Vogel (R-Dist. 27), drew fiery opposition from Senate Democrats Tuesday.
Led by Sen. Janet Howell (D-Dist. 32), opponents of H.B. 462 offered amendment after amendment during debate on the Senate floor; including delaying action until next session and mandating insurance companies cover the ultrasounds if the Commonwealth dictates women must undergo them.
Republicans voted down all alterations except one — victims of rape or incest are exempt from the mandate.
The starkest distinction between H.B. 462, sponsored by Kathy Byron (R-Dist. 22), and Vogel’s legislation is that under Byron’s bill, women won’t be forced to undergo an “internal ultrasound” but the less invasive transabdominal ultrasound.
Still, Democratic lawmakers expressed dismay about their Republican colleagues, who claim to “want government out of people’s lives,” mandating an unnecessary medical procedure.
Sen. Barbara Favola (D-Dist. 31) said the bill is insulting to women.
“I’m personally offended as a woman that the state of Virginia doesn’t trust my judgment about making intimate personal decisions about my body and my reproductive health,” Favola said. “This is the height of government intervention stomping on my constitutional rights. What will be next?”
The state, Favola added, will be requiring a medical procedure, yet not mandating insurance companies cover it — therefore billing a portion of the expense to the Commonwealth.
Favola’s colleague, Sen. Mark Herring (D-Dist. 33), following the vote said “legislators should not be telling physicians how to practice.”
“We should trust women to make their own healthcare decisions without any interference,” Herring added. “Almost the entire session has been consumed by an extreme and divisive social agenda forced on us by Republicans. Instead, we ought to be focused on the issues that matter most to Virginians, such as transportation, education and the economy.”
After the national media zeroed in on her proposal last week, Vogel struck her ultrasound legislation for the 2012 session. H.B. 462, however, worked its way through the Senate Education and Health Committee.
Gov. Robert F. McDonnell, a pro-life Republican, also has given his voice to the issue. Leading up to a House of Delegates vote on Vogel’s bill, McDonnell said he had recently discussed the bill with attorneys, legislators, physicians, advocacy groups and other governors, and that he thinks “there is no need to direct by statute that further invasive ultrasound procedure be done” beyond an external ultrasound.
Vogel could not be reached directly for comment Tuesday, although a prepared statement on her Facebook page reads it was “never her intent to force a woman to have a vaginal screening against her will, only to ensure that women seeking abortions are fully informed, and that current state-of-the-art safety procedures are followed.”