[JURIST] The Virginia Senate [official website] approved a bill [text] on Wednesday that would require a woman seeking an abortion [JURIST news archive] to have an ultrasound before the procedure. The new requirements include the audio provision of fetal heartbeat and a determination of the gestational age of the fetus. Additionally, a written record must be created to indicate that the woman was offered the ultrasound and whether she choose to view it. That record, along with a copy of the ultrasound picture will be included in the woman’s medical file. Some commentators have recently noted [JURIST op-ed] that similar legislation, and court opinions supporting those laws, have signaled a shift in the abortion debate from a “right to life” to a “right to know” doctrine.
Virignia is not the first state to pass such legislation, and similar rules have drawn various results when challenged in the court system. Earlier this 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 of 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.