Republican lawmakers continued to push Virginia in a more conservative direction Wednesday, passing a bill that would make abortions more difficult and another that would ease gun restrictions.
The Senate approved new regulations that would require women seeking abortions to first undergo an ultrasound examination. The expecting mother has the option – but won't be required – to view images from the ultrasound or hear the baby’s heartbeat before deciding whether to terminate the pregnancy.
“It absolutely does not infringe on her right to have an abortion,” said Sen. Jill Vogel, R- Winchester, and the bill’s chief patron. “You’re not required to look at the ultrasound.”
Before losing on a 21-18 vote, Senate Democrats decried the measure as a way to deter women from getting the procedure. They also warned that adding the ultrasound could make an abortion cost prohibitive for low-income women.
“I teach medical ethics to students,” said Sen. Ralph Northam, D-Norfolk, a neurologist. “Telling a patient that they need to have a procedure against their will, I would suggest to them that it’s unethical.
“It does decrease access for women who need reproductive health care, it does increase cost and it allows the government to get in the lives of providers.”
But Vogel said it was simply adding a cautionary step for the physician and the patient.
“If you’re going to have your gallbladder out, you would assume the physician is going to do a sonogram,” she said.
Moments later in the House of Delegates, Republicans made good on their promise to lift the state’s long-standing one-handgun-a-month ban.
Republicans argued the existing limits do nothing to deter criminals who want guns.
The ban was put into place in the mid-1990s at a time when handguns purchased in Virginia were showing up at crime scenes up and down the East Coast. Supporters of the measure, including then-Gov. Doug Wilder, said the law was necessary to curb gun running and straw purchases of guns by legal buyers who later turn the guns over to criminals.
Northern Virginia Democrats questioned why anyone would need to buy more than one handgun a month.
Both bills still need approval from the opposite chamber and Gov. Bob McDonnell, but passage is expected.