News Abortion

Governor Bob McDonnell Signs Forced Ultrasound Bill, Raising Costs and Time Involved in Abortion Care

Jodi Jacobson

After weeks of protest in the state of Virginia and nationally, Governor Bob McDonnell signs a bill forcing women to have and pay out of pocket for an expensive and often medically-unnecessary medical procedure before they can terminate a pregnancy, suggesting it is an effort to "empower women."

After weeks of protest in the state of Virginia and nationally, Governor Bob McDonnell signs a bill forcing women to have and pay out of pocket for an expensive and often medically-unnecessary medical procedure before they can terminate a pregnancy. McDonnell, in taking all choice and power out of the hands of women and the medical professionals they have entrusted with their care, calls the bill an “effort to empower women.”

The bill, originally amended to remove a provision requiring a trans-vaginal ultrasound, which we contend constituted state-sponsored rape, now requires an abdominal ultrasound.  The latter procedure is virtually useless for many early terminations of pregnancy because the embryo is not visible through abdominal ultrasound. The bill does say that “should a trans-vaginal ultrasound be needed, the doctor is required to offer it but the woman is allowed to refuse it. 

Mandating an ultrasound that is not medically necessary of course ensures that you are both raising the costs of an abortion and also passing the costs onto the woman, because insurance will not cover medically unnecessary procedures

Moreover, the bill says the bill incorporates waiting periods for the ultrasound, increasing the time and costs of, for example, time off from work and child care.  Doctors must make an offer of a trans-vaginal ultrasound, offer the woman a chance to view the ultrasound (whether trans-vaginal or abdominal) and hear it; the patient then has to certify she has seen the ultrasound, and the image produced–if one can be–has to be kept in her file. Doctors that don’t follow these guidelines face a civil fine of $2500.00.  This is a common method of harassment of abortion providers… set up lots of requirements that have nothing to do with patient safety or medical necessity, and then constantly harrass doctors to make sure they are “complying. has to be kept in there, if not all complied with specifically, then face a civil.

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The bill had little support in the state. 

“The evidence is stacking up that Bob McDonnell is willfully out of touch with Virginia families,” said Anna Scholl, executive director of ProgressVA.

“Faced with the opposition of 55 % of Virginians33,000 petition signatures, and thousands of protestors on Capitol Square, McDonnell chose to answer the calls of extremists in his own party rather than those of his constituents. This move makes clear that Bob McDonnell prioritizes his national political aspirations over the well being of Virginia families.”

 “The bill is an unprecedented invasion of privacy and government intrusion into the doctors’ offices and living rooms of Virginia women,” said Tarina Keene, Executive Director of NARAL Pro-Choice Virginia.

“Governor McDonnell’s unwillingness to listen to the thousands of women across the Commonwealth who are outraged by this political overreach into their lives shows nothing more than arrogance.”

Another bill working its way through the Virginia legislature contains a provision repealing current funding for low-income women to get Medicaid funding for assistance in paying for abortions in pregnancies involving fetal anomalies.

Repeal of this funding means that women already struggling economically and facing pregnancies gone tragically wrong  must carry to term, a form of coercion one advocate called “cruel and disgusting.”

And they call this “empowerment.”

News Politics

Sen. Tim Kaine Focuses on Reproductive Rights Amid Clinton’s Looming Decision on Vice President

Ally Boguhn

Last week, the senator and former Virginia governor argued in favor of giving Planned Parenthood access to funding in order to fight Zika. "The uniform focus for members of Congress should be, 'Let's solve the problem,'" Kaine reportedly said at a meeting in Richmond, according to Roll Call.

Sen. Tim Kaine (D-VA) appears to be rebranding himself as a more staunch pro-choice advocate after news that the senator was one of at least three potential candidates being vetted by presumptive Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton’s campaign to join her presidential ticket.

Last week, the senator and former Virginia governor argued in favor of giving Planned Parenthood access to funding in order to fight the Zika virus. “The uniform focus for members of Congress should be, ‘Let’s solve the problem,'” Kaine reportedly said at a meeting in Richmond, according to Roll Call. “That is [the] challenge right now between the Senate and House.”

Kaine went on to add that “Planned Parenthood is a primary health provider. This is really at the core of dealing with the population that has been most at risk of Zika,” he continued.

As Laura Bassett and Ryan Grim reported for the Huffington Post Tuesday, “now that Clinton … is vetting him for vice president, Kaine needs to bring his record more in line with hers” when it comes to reproductive rights. While on the campaign trail this election cycle, Clinton has repeatedly spoken out against restrictions on abortion access and funding—though she has stated that she still supports some restrictions, such as a ban on later abortions, as long as they have exceptions.

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In what is seemingly an effort to address the issue, as Bassett and Grim suggested, Kaine signed on last week as a co-sponsor of the Women’s Health Protection Act, which would prohibit states and the federal government from enacting restrictions on abortion that aren’t applied to comparable medical services. As previously reported by Rewire, the measure would effectively stop “TRAP (targeted regulation of abortion provider) laws, forced ultrasounds, waiting periods, or restrictions on medication abortion.” TRAP laws have led to unprecedented barriers in access to abortion care.

Just one day before endorsing the legislation, Kaine issued a statement explicitly expressing his support for abortion rights after the Supreme Court struck down two provisions of Texas’ omnibus anti-choice law HB 2.

“I applaud the Supreme Court for seeing the Texas law for what it is—an attempt to effectively ban abortion and undermine a woman’s right to make her own health care choices,” said Kaine in the press release. “This ruling is a major win for women and families across the country, as well as the fight to expand reproductive freedom for all.”

The Virginia senator went on to use the opportunity to frame himself as a defender of those rights during his tenure as governor of his state. “The Texas law is quite similar to arbitrary and unnecessary rules that were imposed on Virginia women after I left office as Governor,” said Kaine. “I’m proud that we were able to successfully fight off such ‘TRAP’ regulations during my time in state office. I have always believed these sort of rules are an unwarranted effort to deprive women of their constitutionally protected right to terminate a pregnancy.”

Kaine also spoke out during his run for the Senate in 2012 when then-Gov. Bob McDonnell (R) signed a law requiring those who seek abortions to undergo an ultrasound prior to receiving care, calling the law “bad for Virginia’s image, bad for Virginia’s businesses and bad for Virginia’s women.”

Kaine’s record on abortion has of late been a hot topic among those speculating he could be a contender for vice president on the Clinton ticket. While Kaine’s website says that he “support[s] the right of women to make their own health and reproductive decisions” and that he opposes efforts to overturn Roe v. Wade, the senator recently spoke out about his personal opposition to abortion.

When host Chuck Todd asked Kaine during a recent interview on NBC’s Meet the Press about Kaine previously being “classified as a pro-life Democrat” while lieutenant governor of Virginia, Kaine described himself as a “traditional Catholic” who is “opposed to abortion.”

Kaine went on to affirm that he nonetheless still believed that the government should not intrude on the matter. “I deeply believe, and not just as a matter of politics, but even as a matter of morality, that matters about reproduction and intimacy and relationships and contraception are in the personal realm,” Kaine continued. “They’re moral decisions for individuals to make for themselves. And the last thing we need is government intruding into those personal decisions.”

As the Hill noted in a profile on Kaine’s abortion stance, as a senator Kaine has “a 100 percent rating from Planned Parenthood’s scorecard, and has consistently voted against measures like defunding Planned Parenthood and a ban on abortions after the 20th week of pregnancy.”

While running for governor of Virginia in 2005, however, Kaine promised that if elected he would “work in good faith to reduce abortions” by enforcing Virginia’s “restrictions on abortion and passing an enforceable ban on partial birth abortion that protects the life and health of the mother.”

After taking office, Kaine supported some existing restrictions on abortion, such as Virginia’s parental consent law and a so-called informed consent law, which in 2008 he claimed gave “women information about a whole series of things, the health consequences, et cetera, and information about adoption.” In truth, the information such laws mandate giving out is often “irrelevant or misleading,” according to the the Guttmacher Institute.

In 2009 he also signed a measure that allowed the state to create “Choose Life” license plates and give a percentage of the proceeds to a crisis pregnancy network, though such organizations routinely lie to women to persuade them not to have an abortion.

Roundups Law and Policy

Gavel Drop: Welcome to the New World After ‘Whole Woman’s Health’

Imani Gandy & Jessica Mason Pieklo

With the recent U.S. Supreme Court ruling, change may be afoot—even in some of the reddest red states. But anti-choice laws are still wreaking havoc around the world, like in Northern Ireland where women living under an abortion ban are turning to drones for medication abortion pills.

Welcome to Gavel Drop, our roundup of legal news, headlines, and head-shaking moments in the courts.

The New York Times published a map explaining how the U.S. Supreme Court’s ruling in Whole Woman’s Health v. Hellerstedt could affect abortion nationwide.

The Supreme Court vacated the corruption conviction of “Governor Ultrasound:” Former Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell, who signed a 2012 bill requiring women get unnecessary transvaginal ultrasounds before abortion.

Ian Millhiser argues in ThinkProgress that Justice Sonia Sotomayor is the true heir to Thurgood Marshall’s legacy.

The legal fight over HB 2 cost Texas taxpayers $1 million. What a waste.

The Washington Post has an article from Amanda Hollis-Brusky and Rachel VanSickle-Ward detailing how Whole Woman’s Health may have altered abortion politics for good.

A federal court delayed implementation of a Florida law that would have slashed Planned Parenthood’s funding, but the law has already done a lot of damage in Palm Beach County.

After the Whole Woman’s Health Supreme Court ruling in favor of science and pregnant people, Planned Parenthood is gearing up to fight abortion restrictions in eight states. And we are here for it.

Drones aren’t just flying death machines: They’re actually helping women in Northern Ireland who need to get their hands on some medication abortion pills.

Abortion fever has gone international: In New Zealand, there are calls to re-examine decades-old abortion laws that don’t address 21st-century needs.

Had Justice Antonin Scalia been alive, explains Emma Green for the Atlantic, there would have been the necessary fourth vote for the Supreme Court to take a case about pharmacists who have religious objections to doing their job when it comes to providing emergency contraception.

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