UPDATE, 3:40: Governor McDonnell has released a statement regarding the bill, posted after the jump.
Virginia’s Republican Governor Robert McDonnell has come to his senses: he is dropping his support for a scary-ass bill requiring women seeking an abortion to first have a medically unnecessary “transvaginal ultrasound,” aka to be vaginally penetrated with a speculum and ultrasound probe.
Gov. McDonnell, who is anti-legal abortion, had vowed to sign the bill if it passed Virginia’s General Assembly. Virginia’s House has postponed a final vote on the bill [third item] due to controversy, which has caused over a thousand Virginians to hold a silent protest outside the state capitol.
The bill has been blasted as “state-mandated rape,” since doctors agree that a “transvaginal ultrasound” is medically unnecessary for an abortion and therefore women would be forced against their will to undergo an invasive procedure. A Democratic Virginia politician, Delegate David Eglin, had also pointed out that if abortion providers vaginally probed women seeking abortions against their will at the government’s behest, those doctors could then technically be charged with sexual assault under VA’s “object sexual penetration statute.”
Cynically, one has to wonder if Gov. McDonnell backed off this atrocious bill because he is on the short-list as a vice presidential contender. Even conservative commentator Meghan McCain — who is a pro-life Republican — could barely keep her stomach down talking about the bill on “The Rachel Maddow Show” last night.
“I’m against vaginal probing,” McCain said. “I feel like I have to on television and delineate the two. I’m horrified by this bill as a woman, as a Republican woman I’m horrified. I think this is completely radioactive for Gov. McDonnell and I have no idea why he would … say he would pass it.” (Rachel Maddow, bless her, also pointed out, “I would have thought inveighing against contraception would be radioactive! … Inveighing against contraception is now a mainstream Republican position. Maybe it’s not radioactive? Maybe this is how you lobby to be vice president?” Oof.)
Attention, Virginia: when Meghan McCain and Rachel Maddow are on the same side of an issue and are both equally appalled at your machinations, maybe it’s time to back the eff off of what you are doing?
UPDATE, 3:40pm: Full statement from Governor McDonnell (emphasis mine):
“I am pro-life. I believe deeply in the sanctity of innocent human life and believe governments have a duty to protect human life. The more our society embraces a culture of life for all people, the better country we will have. Over the course of my 20-year career in elected office, I have been glad to play a leading role in putting in place common-sense policies that protect and defend innocent human life in the Commonwealth. One of those bills was Virginia’s informed consent statute, of which I was the chief patron in the House of Delegates, finally seeing its passage in 2001. This session, the General Assembly is now considering amending this informed consent statute to include a requirement that any woman seeking an abortion receive an ultrasound in order to establish the gestational age for appropriate medical purposes, and to offer a woman the opportunity to voluntarily review that ultrasound prior to giving her legal informed consent to abortion.
Over the past days I have discussed the specific language of the proposed legislation with other governors, physicians, attorneys, legislators, advocacy groups, and citizens. It is apparent that several amendments to the proposed legislation are needed to address various medical and legal issues which have arisen. It is clear that in the majority of cases, a routine external, transabdominal ultrasound is sufficient to meet the bills stated purpose, that is, to determine gestational age. I have come to understand that the medical practice and standard of care currently guide physicians to use other procedures to find the gestational age of the child, when abdominal ultrasounds cannot do so. Determining gestational age is essential for legal reasons, to know the trimester of the pregnancy in order to comply with the law, and for medical reasons as well.
Thus, having looked at the current proposal, I believe there is no need to direct by statute that further invasive ultrasound procedures be done. Mandating an invasive procedure in order to give informed consent is not a proper role for the state. No person should be directed to undergo an invasive procedure by the state, without their consent, as a precondition to another medical procedure.
For this reason, I have recommended to the General Assembly a series of amendments to this bill. I am requesting that the General Assembly amend this bill to explicitly state that no woman in Virginia will have to undergo a transvaginal ultrasound involuntarily. I am asking the General Assembly to state in this legislation that only a transabdominal, or external, ultrasound will be required to satisfy the requirements to determine gestational age. Should a doctor determine that another form of ultrasound may be necessary to provide the necessary images and information that will be an issue for the doctor and the patient. The government will have no role in that medical decision.
I have requested other amendments that help clarify the purposes of the bill and reflect a better understanding of prevailing medical practices. It is my hope that the members of the General Assembly will act favorably upon these recommendations from our office. We will await their action prior to making any further comments on this matter.”
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