Despite National Ridicule, Republicans Vote to Mandate Ultrasounds

Republicans continue to focus like a laser on their divisive social agenda

The Republicans continue their relentless assault on women’s rights. Despite weeks of national ridicule, Republican Senators just cannot let go of their divisive social agenda that is taking Virginia backwards. Today, Senate Republicans voted for HB 462, which legislates mandates an unnecessary ultrasound before abortion — at great cost to most women, whose insurance is unlikely to cover an unnecessary procedure.

Senator Janet Howell (D-Fairfax) said, “Before this bill was amended, there were those who talked about it as ‘state rape.’ And Republicans voted for it. The amended bill goes from state rape to state assault. And Republicans have now voted for state assault on women.”

“I’ve been here for 21 years, and I’ve seen lots of bills, and I don’t get angry often. But I’m angry now, because this bill is demeaning to women. I’m angry because it implies that women are not smart enough to realize what an abortion means. I’m angry because of the attitude it shows toward doctors. There is a presumption in this legislation that doctors are not smart enough to make the right decisions,” said Senator Howell.

Senator George Barker (D-Fairfax) said, “Over 98% of abortions in Virginia take place in the first trimester. Most of these abortions are medical abortions, not surgical. It is not logical, it is frankly absurd to require an additional procedure that has no medical utility.”

Senator Richard L. Saslaw (D-Fairfax) said, “This is just a senseless procedure to, I guess, make some people feel good and put up an obstacle to women seeking an abortion. Because almost all abortions in Virginia are done in the first trimester, the ultrasound will show nothing. This bill just doesn’t do anything, and will be traumatic for some young women.”

Senator Ralph Northam (D-Norfolk), “This bill tells a woman to have a diagnostic procedure, maybe against her will. As a doctor, I consider that unethical. This bill tells me, and my medical colleagues how to practice medicine. I had ten years of training to practice medicine. We do not need non-physician legislators dictating how to practice medicine.”

“This bill tells doctors to do a totally unnecessary test — early in a pregnancy, I might as well use the ultrasound on this bottle of Gatorade, for all I’ll see. This bill is an assault on women’s health care, it is a tremendous insult to physicians,” Senator Northam added.

Republicans Force Women to Pay for an Unnecessary Procedure

Senator Janet Howell (D-Fairfax) offered a series of amendments to SB 462, which were designed to soften the mean-spirited burden the bill places on women.

Senator Howell’s fourth amendment would allow a doctor to waive the ultrasound requirement “if he believes that the ultrasound is medically unnecessary.” This amendment speaks directly to the greatest flaw of SB 462, because the bill supplants the judgment of physicians with the wisdom of politicians. This amendment failed on a vote of 19 to 21. 

Senator Howell’s next amendment would have “mandated that insurance companies cover the cost of the procedure.”

“We have never, ever, in my 21 years, mandated a medical procedure without ensuring that the procedure will be covered,” said Senator Saslaw.

“These ultrasounds can cost over $1,200, and the fact that lawmakers would consider mandating a medical procedure and then refuse mandating that the insurance company pay for it is insulting,” said Senator Barbara Favola (D-Arlington). 

The amendment failed on a vote of 19 to 21.

Additional Amendments

Senator Howell’s first amendment was designed to protect women from coercion by altering the ultrasound requirement in the bill to “exclusively optional,” and that “no physician can coerce a woman to have this ultrasound.” This amendment failed on a vote of 19 to 21.

Senator Howell’s second amendment would “limit who will be subjected to the ultrasound with or without their consent. If the woman is the victim of rape or incest she would not be forced to undergo this traumatizing procedure.” This amendment, with substantial Republican support, passed on a voice vote.

Senator Howell’s third amendment would exempt a woman from the ultrasound requirement if her fetus has a genetic or chromosomal anomaly, which would likely lead to a severe deformity or disability. This amendment failed on a vote of 19 to 21.

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