Virginia GOP backs off mandatory invasive ultrasound tests

Republican legislators in Virginia voted to amend a bill that would have required women seeking abortions to submit to invasive ultrasound imaging.

By , Associated Press

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    Delegate Eileen Filler addresses a "Stands for Women's Rights" rally in Richmond, Va. Monday.
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 Virginia Republican legislators have scrapped a bitterly contested proposal to require women seeking abortions to undergo invasive ultrasound imaging, likely dooming the bill.

The Republican-controlled House of Delegates voted 65-32 Wednesday for an amended bill that requires only an external ultrasound, not the vaginal insertion of a wand-like device that emits ultrasonic waves.

The House amended the bill minutes after Republican Gov. Bob McDonnell came out against requiring the more invasive procedure. McDonnell shifted ground after the proposal drew outrage from women, national ridicule from television comedians and appeals from GOP moderates.

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The amended bill now returns to the Senate where its sponsor, Sen. Jill Vogel, said she will strike the legislation. Anti-abortion legislation had been coursing through the General Assembly since Republicans recently took control of the state Senate.

On Monday, hundreds of women locked arms and stood mute outside the Virginia State Capitol to protest a wave of anti-abortion legislation coursing through the General Assembly.

Capitol and state police officers, there to ensure order, estimated the crowd to be more than 1,000 people — mostly women. The crowd formed a human cordon through which legislators walked before Monday's floor sessions of the Republican-controlled legislature.

The silent protest was over bills that would define embryos as humans and criminalize their destruction, require "transvaginal" ultrasounds of women seeking abortions, and cut state aid to poor women seeking abortions.

Molly Vick of Richmond said it was her first time to take part in a protest, but the issue was too infuriating and compelling. On her lavender shirt, she wore a sticker that said "Say No to State-Mandated Rape." Just beneath the beltline of her blue jeans was a strip of yellow tape that read "Private Property: Keep Out."

One organizer said the event took root, was organized and publicized almost wholly through Facebook and other social media after last week's votes on landmark anti-abortion bills racing through a legislature dominated for the first time by conservative Republicans.

"We could feel that there was a lot of outrage and emotion and people talking about these issues," said Sarah Okolita, a Virginia Commonwealth University graduate student who helped arrange the Monday morning event.

The protest also came as Virginia's highly partisan debate over abortion legislation moved into the realm of comedy and national pop culture when a segment on NBC's "Saturday Night Live" lampooned ultrasound bills sponsored by Del. Kathy Byron, R-Campbell County, and Sen. Jill Vogel, R-Fauquier.

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