Virginia OKs bill requiring ultrasound before abortion

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Local,Virginia,Steve Contorno

RICHMOND -- Women will have to undergo an ultrasound before receiving an abortion in Virginia under a measure that is now likely headed to Gov. Bob McDonnell’s desk.

The Virginia House of Delegate followed the Senate’s lead in passing a bill Tuesday that requires doctors to perform the ultrasound before every abortion and offer the patient a picture of the fetus and audio of the unborn child’s heartbeat.

Minutes earlier, the House voted to define a fetus as a person in a striking blow to abortion-rights advocates who worry about the bill's impact on the ability of women to obtain birth control.

That so-called "personhood" measure, which grants rights to fetuses, is now headed to the Senate, where it faces a more difficult road.

Abortion-rights groups argue the bill could outlaw abortions and even some forms of birth control, while putting women's doctors at risk of lawsuits.

“Not only will you open up a doctor to a potential wrongful death claim, but assault and battery and a whole slew of criminal and civil penalties,” said Del. Jennifer McClellan, D-Richmond.

Proponents of the measure said it seeks to give a woman more complete information about the fetus she is about to abort.

“This may be the most important decision that she ever makes in her life. A tough decision,” said Del. Kathy Byron, R-Lynchburg, the bill's co-patron. “A woman has the right to have all the information available to her before making that decision.”

But opponents said the ultrasound requirement is intended to subject the woman to an unnecessary invasive procedure.

“We are talking about a vaginal probe,” said Del. Charniele Herring, D-Alexandria. “This is the ultimate government invasion, an invasion into a woman’s body.”

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