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Va. governor signs pre-abortion ultrasound bill

Wednesday - 3/7/2012, 5:44pm  ET

By BOB LEWIS
AP Political Writer

RICHMOND, Va. - Abdominal ultrasounds for women seeking abortions in Virginia will become mandatory on July 1 under a law signed Wednesday by Gov. Bob McDonnell, who faced a political uproar before lawmakers deleted language that would have made the exams medically invasive.

The conservative Republican governor's signature means abortion providers statewide will have to comply. It also requires patients who live within 100 miles of the clinic where the abortion is performed to wait 24 hours after the ultrasound.

The bill not only sparked protests the past three weeks by angry women's rights groups and others that led to 30 arrests at the Capitol Saturday, it subjected Virginia to scorn by columnists and political talk shows and ridicule from television comedians earlier when language was still in the bill that would have required women wanting abortions to submit to vaginal ultrasounds.

The bill signed into law Wednesday was part of a wave of conservative legislation that had perennially failed in the General Assembly until Republicans gained control of both the House and Senate in the 2011 elections. The uproar focused national ridicule on the proposal and also on Republican politicians in Virginia.

Other bills would have stripped state funding for abortions sought by indigent women carrying fetuses that have profound and incapacitating deformities, and would have given embryos full rights of personhood from the moment of conception, a step that would outlaw almost all abortions and even some forms of contraception if the 1973 U.S. Supreme Court ruling that legalized abortion is overturned.

The bill not only sparked protests the past three weeks by angry women's rights groups and others that led to 30 arrests at the Capitol Saturday, it subjected Virginia to scorn by columnists and political talk shows and ridicule from television comedians.

Reaction was swift and strident on both sides of the politically and emotionally charged measure.

"I am horribly disappointed," said Molly Vick, a Richmond independent financial services consultant and mother of one son.

"This is an all-out war on women's rights and women's health all across the country," said Vick, who was so angered by the bill that for the first time in her life she joined public protests against it at the Capitol. "We are not going to just go off quietly into the night. They just made an activist out of me."

The conservative, anti-abortion Family Foundation hailed the signature.

"The abortion industry fears that a woman might see the unborn for what they are and make a different choice, which means less money in the industries coffers, and that is what opposition to this bill has always been about," said Victoria Cobb, the organization's president.

It was part of a wave of conservative legislation that had perennially failed in the General Assembly until Republicans gained control of both the House and Senate in the 2011 elections.

Other bills would have stripped state funding for abortions sought by indigent women carrying fetuses that have profound and incapacitating deformities, and would have given embryos full rights of personhood from the moment of conception, a step that would outlaw almost all abortion and even some forms of contraception if the 1973 U.S. Supreme Court ruling that legalized abortion is overturned.

The ultrasound bill initially called for the vaginally invasive form of examination. But after Capitol Square protests, Democratic legislators accusing the bill's GOP backers of sanctioning "state-mandated rape" and being lampooned by "Saturday Night Live" and "The Daily Show with Jon Stewart," McDonnell had his party remove the "transvaginal ultrasound" requirement.


(Copyright 2012 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)