Virginia is for copy-cats!


We were surprised by this fact: At the end of last week, we were talking to a very big name about the proposed Virginia law involving the ultrasound exams.

We haven’t seen a lot of press coverage, we said, expressing a bit of puzzlement.

Yesterday, the New York Times did a news report on the situation. We were surprised by the highlighted fact:
TAVERNISE (2/21/12): Requiring ultrasounds before abortions has become one of the principal tactics of the anti-abortion movement, with similar rules now in effect in seven states and being held up by legal challenges in two more—Oklahoma and North Carolina.
If Virginia is the tenth state to enact such a provision, that might explain why there hadn’t been a whole lot of coverage. Here’s why we were surprised:

Especially watching the Maddow Show, we have gotten the impression that this proposed Virginia law was a major new departure. We haven’t gone back to read all the transcripts in detail. But we’ve watched quite a few segments about this law. We were surprised to read that Virginia would be the tenth state in line.

Looking at Monday night’s transcript, we see that Dahlia Lithwick mentioned the fact that Texas has a similar law. But scanning transcripts back through last week, we see no discussion of the sweep of such laws—of those nine other states.

We were surprised by that fact in the Times, a fact which seems a bit depressing. Having said that, we have an excuse—we watch lots of cable TV!

Just to be clear: We can't speak to the accuracy or the thoroughness of that highlighted fact. It does seem to us that it's a basic, if unfortunate, part of the overall story.

Mind-reading Governor McDonnell is fun. Who are the other nine governors?


  1. So someone could say, "that's already the law in twenty-eight, um, nine other states! What's the big deal?"

  2. Well Kansas seems to have gotten the same treatment. When our state school board passed some new rule about evolution. Oh, the liberal web was all over it jeering at Kansas, the new laughingstock of the world. Thomas Frank's book came out about that time. Kansas, apparently, had something wrong with it.

    Yet, as I read about it, the new Kansas rule was said to be similar to rules already passed in a few other states, including, (gasp) liberal Minnesota. But such facts could not be used to stop Kansas' use a whipping boy for all that was the matter with those damned red states.

  3. I think Virginia is different in that it requires a tranvaginal sonogram in early pregnancies, without the consent of either the woman or her doctor.

    1. Exactly. None of the other states will force a woman to undergo a transvaginal probe, with a speculum, against her will, and to record her name if she refuses to.

      This is severe state intrusion, and anything but small government.

      The male GOP legislators who are pushing it should be forced to undergo drug and alcohol tests, and a transpenile probe, for the sake of it.

  4. There's more to this story as has been pointed out in the press:

    Virginia is a purple state carried by Obama.

    If the polls are to be believed, 55% of Virginians don't want this law with approval in the mid 30s.

    This law is a far-right fetish and is not supported by the people of Virginia.

  5. I think what CJWhite points out is what makes the VA law unique. AFAIK, the other states don't require transvaginal sonograms, something which may be particularly traumatic for victims of rape, especially if their consent is not required. Although I can't say for sure.

  6. Good grief, I would have missed this were it not for this important post.

  7. Even funnier, planned parenthood requires ultrasound for abortions.

    Medical abortions generally require three visits. At the first visit, we do a health assessment, perform all the necessary lab work, and do an ultrasound. This visit takes about an hour. At the second visit, the physician gives the first pill and directions for taking two more pills at home. The third visit is required during which you will have an exam and another ultrasound.”

    1. "Vaginal ultrasounds are often performed by doctors before abortions anyway, but opponents say that the legal act of requiring it for nonmedical reasons is a violation of the doctor-patient relationship."

      Oh, hahaha that is indeed *very* funny. [/sarcasm]

    2. There are ultrasounds and then there are vaginal ultrasounds. That you don't know the distinction makes me no trust anything you've written here, Anonymous.

    3. But the doctors don't let the patients view the results. (The woman involved might have second thoughts after seeing the ultrasound and that just wouldn't do, eh?)

    4. "the doctors don't let the patients view the results"

      And we have a winner in the "making stuff up" contest! Well done, Toby!

  8. Facts are stubborn things. Here's a fact, at least according to WebMD: A transvaginal ultrasound is done to look for problems with fertility. This procedure wouldn't seem to be relevant for a woman presenting herself for an abortion. Requiring a woman to undergo a transvaginal when a transabdominal would suffice seems to me to be punitive and demeaning.
    While it is completely understandable a doctor would want an ultrasound before facilitating an abortion in order to understand the condition of the pregnancy, I don't imagine she is required to listen to the heartbeat or even view the image. That is an issue between the doctor and the patient and the state should keep their goddamned noses out.
    Imagine the outrage if VA were to require men to undergo a transrectal ultrasound for some reason or other.

    1. Transpenile/transurethral. It's much more painful than transrectal. Just pray you never have severe bladder or kidney problems. I really feel for the women who're being subjected to this right-wing nonsense. These nuts can't keep their hands off other people's bodies, and it's anything but conservative.

  9. As another commenter noted, you missed the principal difference in the VA law: it requires physical insertion of a transvaginal probe. No other state has this extreme of a requirement; the rest are content with sonograms obtained radiologically without need for bodily invasion.

    Damn those stubborn facts!

  10. To obtain one intrusive medical procedure you must get another one beforehand. Fascists.

  11. According to the current Virginia Code, "Object sexual penetration" against a person's will is a felony punishable by 5 years to life -- except when legislators want to shame women seeking an abortion.

  12. An emergence of good sense in Virginia:

    McDonnell, Virginia Republicans back off mandatory invasive ultrasounds

    A controversial bill that would require women to get an ultrasound before an abortion is now in doubt after Virginia Gov. Robert F. McDonnell diluted the measure Wednesday by making it optional in many cases.

    “Mandating an invasive procedure in order to give informed consent is not a proper role for the state,” McDonnell said in a statement. “No person should be directed to undergo an invasive procedure by the state, without their consent, as a precondition to another medical procedure.”

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  14. "Reporters" can spend the time and effort to dig up a speech Rick Santorum made 4 years ago at an obscure religious college but they cant' be bothered to investigate a fairly significant claim made by the Obama administration or unearth the fact that Virginia is not alone in it's ultrasound requirements. It's all a matter of MOTIVATION, isn't it?

  15. Well, I for one am glad we all have our "facts" straight about the Virginia abortion bill now.
    We're all on the same page, aren't we?

    When I was jury foreman on a sexual assault case (Arizona), the law was specific. It defined sexual assault as placing a sexual organ or anus in another's mouth without consent, or penetrating the vagina with any object without consent.

    Without consent was:
    (a) The victim is coerced by the immediate use or threatened use of force against a person or property.
    (b) The victim is incapable of consent by reason of mental disorder, mental defect, drugs, alcohol, sleep or any other similar impairment of cognition and such condition is known or should have reasonably been known to the defendant. For purposes of this subdivision, "mental defect" means the victim is unable to comprehend the distinctively sexual nature of the conduct or is incapable of understanding or exercising the right to refuse to engage in the conduct with another.
    (c) The victim is intentionally deceived as to the nature of the act.
    (d) The victim is intentionally deceived to erroneously believe that the person is the victim's spouse.

  16. It's way, way more complicated. The original Viriginia law that got everyone outraged did not STATE that a vaginal ultrasound must be performed. But it did state that the purpose of the ultrasound was to determine gestational age and to offer the woman an opportunity to view an image of the fetus. In the large majority of abortions (peformed early in the pregnancy), this could not be accomplished without a vaginal ultrasound.

    Without a thorough review of the other state laws, it's not possible to say whether or not those laws operate the same way as this law would have, had it not been amended. It's probably safe to say that they would have, because it seems unlikely that those other laws have language in them stating that an abdominal procedure would be sufficient (this had to be written into the Va bill).

    I suspect that Virginia bill became such a big deal because of all the people who live in Virginia and work in D.C. It's just a more politicized state. Is that wrong -- should reproductive rights advocates have been shouting loudly over all the other states? Yes, they should have. It's not clear if they tried and were ignored, or what happened exactly. But it's a good thing we all finally started paying attention to yet another invasive tactic of the radical right to punish women and win votes.