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Virginia governor signs bill requiring ultrasound before abortion

Virginia Govenor Bob McDonnell [official website] on Wednesday signed legislation [HB 462] that will require women to have an ultrasound before undergoing an abortion [JURIST news archive]. The bill was approved by the House of Delegates and the Senate [JURIST reports], and is a scaled-back version of a similar bill [SB 484] that was considered last month. The current version of the bill removes the requirement for a transvaginal ultrasound to be performed, but continues to require a traditional transabdominal ultrasound. Upon signing, McDonnell said [statement:

Women have a right to know all the available medical and legal information surrounding the abortion decision before giving legally effective informed consent. Informed consent is already required prior to an abortion being performed in Virginia, based on the longstanding health care concept that complete information about a medical procedure must be given to a patient before she can freely consent to a procedure. As difficult as an abortion decision is, the information provided by ultrasounds, along with other information given by the doctor pursuant to current law and prevailing medical practice, can help the mother make a fully informed decision.
The legislation is set to take effect July 1.

With the passage of this legislation, Virginia becomes the eighth state to require an ultrasound before an abortion, 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 similar Texas law [JURIST report], 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 [SB 1878, DOC] 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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