The Virginia Senate [official website] approved a bill [text] on Tuesday that would require a woman seeking an abortion [JURIST news archive] to have an ultrasound before the procedure. The bill was passed [JURIST report] by the Virginia House of Delegates [official website], and is a scaled-back version of a similar bill [text] that was passed [JURIST report] earlier this month. The current version of the bill removes the requirement for a transvaginal ultrasound to be performed, but continues to require a traditional transabdominal ultrasound. The bill retains the requirement that the women be provided with information regarding the gestational age and physical development of the fetus. In addition to altering the ultrasound requirements, the updated legislation redacts the portion of the previous version that would have required the medical professional to give the woman the option of listening to the fetal heart tone. The contentious bill was narrowly approved [results] by a margin of 21 to 19, with the vote split relatively along party lines.
Virignia is not the first state to pass such legislation, and similar rules have drawn various results when challenged in the court system. Last month the US Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit [official website] lifted an injunction [JURIST report] on a Texas law [JURIST report] that requires women to have a sonogram before undergoing an abortion, allowing the law to be enforced. In October, a judge for the US District Court for the Middle District of North Carolina [official website] issued a preliminary injunction [JURIST report], blocking part of the state's abortion law that required a physician to perform an ultrasound and describe the images to the patient. In March 2010 the Supreme Court of Oklahoma [official website] ruled [JURIST report] that a state law [SB 1878, DOC] imposing broad restrictions on abortion, including the requirement of an ultrasound prior to the procedure, violated that state's constitution.