Despite National Ridicule, Republicans Vote to Mandate Ultrasounds
Republicans continue to push divisive social agenda
Richmond, Virginia— February 28, 2012— Today, Senate Republicans continued the relentless assault on women’s rights that prompted three demonstrations over the past week in the state’s capitol. Following national ridicule on television programs including The Daily Show and Rachel Maddow, Republican senators pushed the infamous mandatory ultrasound bill through the Senate after over an hour of debate on the floor. Today, Senate Republicans voted for HB 462, which 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 Favola (D-31) said, “I’m personally offended as a woman that the state of Virginia doesn’t trust my judgment about making intimate personal decisions about my body and my reproductive health. This is the height of government intervention stomping on my constitutional rights. What will be next?”
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.
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.
"Sen. Barbara Favola (D-Dist. 31) said the bill is insulting to women.
“'I’m personally offended as a woman that the state of Virginia doesn’t trust my judgment about making intimate personal decisions about my body and my reproductive health,' Favola said. 'This is the height of government intervention stomping on my constitutional rights. What will be next?'
"The state, Favola added, will be requiring a medical procedure, yet not mandating insurance companies cover it therefore billing a portion of the expense to the commonwealth."
"'A party that claims to be about small government is now mandating a medical procedure,' Sen. Barbara Favola (D) told HuffPost. 'There is no other example in the Virginia code where politicians are telling doctors how to practice medicine.'"
“'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 Favola."
"VIRGINIA’S GENERAL ASSEMBLY, 82 percent of whose members are men and 3 percent of whose members are physicians, has taken upon itself the task of ordering up procedures between women and their doctors — specifically, ultrasounds for women seeking abortions.
"The purpose of this exercise in coercion is to discourage women from ending their pregnancies. Forced on the legislature by anti-abortion lawmakers, nearly all of them Republicans, it is a prime example of ideology, nanny-state paternalism and arrogance trumping plain good sense.
"Above all, the Virginia legislation is supremely pointless. It substitutes a mandate for a doctor’s judgment, so that the government will require ultrasounds even though they already take place in most instances. The main difference is that the state will now make no allowance for a doctor’s discretion. And because the legislation mandates a waiting period of two to 24 hours between an ultrasound and an abortion, women will be hit with needless child-care costs and forced to take days off work.
"Amid a firestorm of national criticism, Gov. Robert F. McDonnell prodded fellow Republicans in Richmond to back off their original version of the legislation, which would have required women seeking abortions to undergo transvaginal ultrasounds whether or not they consented. The watered-down version of the bill instead mandates abdominal ultrasounds.
"Abdominal ultrasounds — the 'jelly on the belly' version — are less invasive than vaginal probes. But they are also all but useless in detecting fetal images or even a heartbeat in most pregnancies during the first trimester, when some 90 percent or more of abortions are performed.
"When doctors elect to do ultrasounds that early in a pregnancy, they are generally the transvaginal variety. But it’s critical that they be done consensually, within the privacy of a doctor’s relationship with a woman seeking an abortion — not as the result of meddlesome state intrusion.