As Virginia's ultrasound bill, signed Wednesday by Gov. Bob Mc- Donnell, takes its place in the law books, legislators deserve praise for dealing proactively with the vast array of misinformation and outright lies propagated by the bill's opponents and their allies in the media. But if the final debate in the Virginia House of Delegates is any indication, some abortion proponents will stop at nothing to advance their agenda.
Earlier in the process, opponents maliciously claimed that the bill would "harm" women. In reality, the bill simply mandated that abortion providers conduct a lifesaving test in accordance with "standard medical practice" and allow women to view the results of that test. An ultrasound before an abortion is a critical test because it assists an abortion provider in determining gestational age of the unborn child and diagnosing ectopic pregnancies - both of which are important medical concerns. In fact, you can't get an abortion at Planned Parenthood of Virginia unless you agree to undergo an ultrasound first.
The media seemed eager to assist in the misinformation campaign by repeating distortions by abortion advocates who began claiming that the original bill mandated "transvaginal" ultrasounds and amounted to "state-sanctioned rape." Ed Schultz on MSNBC stated that the bill "would require a highly invasive transvaginal ultrasound first." The issue has also come up on "The Rachel Maddow Show," "The Daily Show With Jon Stewart" and even "Saturday Night Live."
These claims were false. The truth is that the original bill required that an ultrasound "shall be made pursuant to standard medical practice in the community." In other words, abortion providers would have had to follow a basic standard of care. They couldn't simply fling the abdominal inducer over the woman's stomach and claim to have "performed" an ultrasound.
Misuse of the "rape" accusation by abortion advocates against those who use ultrasound procedures made even some in the abortion industry uncomfortable, as they themselves follow the practice. Sociologist Carole Joffe wrote in Slate.com that a longtime abortion provider posed the question to colleagues on a listserv, "Are we now going to have to convince our patients we are not raping them?"
However, because of the hysteria, legislators went out of their way to clarify the issue by amending the bill to state clearly that it would require only a "transabdominal" ultrasound. The bill then was passed by the Senate 21-19.
The politically necessitated change in language did not appease the malice of abortion advocates, whose only goal is to prevent women from seeing their unborn baby on an ultrasound monitor. They not only kept up the shrill rhetoric, but took it a step further. During the final debate on the bill in the Virginia House, Delegate Charniele Herring, Alexandria Democrat, outrageously stated that requiring the external "transabdominal ultrasound is tantamount to battery."
Seriously? Does that mean that Planned Parenthood of Virginia and physicians' offices across the state are "battering" women with "unnecessary" procedures? If not, then don't all women in the state deserve the common-sense standard of care that even Planned Parenthood admits is necessary before abortion?
Evidently not. Simply put, Ms. Herring and her allies are defending substandard abortion care in their state. They're doing so with inflamed rhetoric that shows they aren't really defenders of women but rather defenders of those who exploit women. Shame.
Daniel McConchie is vice president of government affairs at Americans United for Life. Mailee Smith is staff counsel at AUL. Both worked on Virginia's ultrasound legislation.
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