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Virginia House passes watered-down abortion ultrasound bill

The Virginia House of Delegates [official website] passed a watered-down version of a controversial ultrasound [JURIST news archive] bill [SB 484] Wednesday, which requires women seeking an abortion have a transabdomenal ultrasound before going through with the procedure. The bill differs from the controversial one passed by the Senate earlier this month [JURIST report] which originally required women to have a transvaginal ultrasound. The controversy surrounding the bill [WP report] has grown in recent weeks and the changes to the bill came at the behest of Governor Bob McDonnell [official website] who requested the non-invasive alternative [press release] in the face of protests from media and pro-choice advocates. The bill is in a perilous place as Senator Jill Holtzman Vogel [official website], the bill's sponsor, said Thursday that she would rather strike the bill entirely than allow it to pass with the new amendments. This bill is widely seen as the next step in the process towards outlawing abortions in the state. Also Thursday, the Virginia Senate put on hold personhood legislation [JURIST report] that would define life as beginning at conception.

Virginia is not the first state to pass ultrasound legislation, and similar rules have drawn various results when challenged in the court system. In January, the US Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit [official website] lifted an injunction [JURIST report] on a Texas law [JURIST report] that requires women to have a sonogram before undergoing an abortion, allowing the law to be enforced. In October, a judge for the US District Court for the Middle District of North Carolina [official website] issued a preliminary injunction [JURIST report], blocking part of the state's abortion law that required a physician to perform an ultrasound and describe the images to the patient. In March 2010, the Supreme Court of Oklahoma [official website] ruled [JURIST report] that a state law imposing broad restrictions on abortion, including the requirement of an ultrasound prior to the procedure, violated that state's constitution.

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Paper Chase is JURIST's real-time legal news service, powered by a team of 30 law student reporters and editors led by law professor Bernard Hibbitts at the University of Pittsburgh School of Law. As an educational service, Paper Chase is dedicated to presenting important legal news and materials rapidly, objectively and intelligibly in an accessible format.

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