The XX Factor

Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell Backs off the Invasive Ultrasound Law


Photo Illustration by Sean Gallup/Getty Images

Defenders of Virginia’s proposed ultrasound law, which would require some women to get penetrated by a transvaginal ultrasound before being allowed to have an abortion, say that they support the bill because it’s merely giving women more information about their bodies. As Dahlia Lithwick pointed out late last week in Slate piece about the law, Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell said on a radio show, “I think it gives full information…To be able to have that information before making what most people would say is a very important, serious, life-changing decision, I think is appropriate.” This week, Rick Santorum is making waves by saying that he thinks certain prenatal tests “encourage abortions,” because they identify birth defects like Down Syndrome. The implication here is that forcing women to have “more information” through a vaginal probe is a-ok, but allowing them to have more information by an elective prenatal test should be stopped. What other information isn’t good for women? Apparently whatever is said in a proposed unofficial contraception hearing that would consist of someone other than a bunch of dudes.

These base contradictions really rankle, and one positive thing that’s emerged from the constant strike on women’s bodily autonomy these past few weeks is that there’s been a ton of push back against conservative legislators. Over 1,000 people joined a protest over the new Virginia law, and Gov. McDonnell, who had previously promised to pass the ultrasound law, is backing off his once-firm stance. According to the Washington Post, McDonnell’s team is saying that the Gov. will “review” the bill if it is approved, but they will not say whether he will sign it into law. Officials who met with McDonnell say that the bill’s supporters didn’t understand how invasive the transvaginal ultrasound truly is, and now that they know, they’re changing their tune. I guess they got that additional information they needed.

Update, Feb 22, 2012: Va. Gov. Bob McDonnell made a  statement this afternoon about the proposed ultrasound law, the Washington Post reports. The backtrack is complete:

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.