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Virginia Lt. Governor Candidates Spar Over GOP’s Forced Ultrasound Record

Ally Boguhn

The Democratic candidate criticized his Republican counterpart for suggesting that “she wants to take government out of everyone’s life” even though she had sponsored an “invasive ultrasound bill" as a state senator.

Democratic nominee for Virginia lieutenant governor Justin Fairfax challenged Republican rival state Sen. Jill Holtzman Vogel Wednesday over a bill she introduced in 2012 that could have forced many seeking abortion care in the state to undergo a transvaginal ultrasound.

The topic came up during a lieutenant governor candidate forum in Charlottesville, Virginia, when Fairfax criticized Vogel for suggesting that “she wants to take government out of everyone’s life” even though she had been the lead sponsor of what he characterized as an “invasive ultrasound bill.”

“I can’t think of a more intrusive thing that a government can do,” Fairfax said.

Vogel countered that “there was nothing in that bill that took any rights away from women or forced them to do anything against their will.”

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Vogel’s bill, SB 484, would have required those seeking an abortion to undergo an ultrasound and have the option of viewing it before the procedure. It did not explicitly force a patient to undergo a transvaginal ultrasound. However, as most abortions occur early in a pregnancy when a transvaginal ultrasound may be most effective in determining gestational age, the bill would have meant many would need to undergo one instead of an abdominal ultrasound to comply with the law.

“It was simply an informed consent bill,” Vogel claimed, adding that “partisan rhetoric around this bill is so offensive” and noting that she withdrew the bill when she believed it had become “a tool of partisanship.”

A “watered down” version of Vogel’s legislation was later signed into law by then-Gov. Bob McDonnell (R).

“Women’s health issues should never be played that way,” Vogel said at the forum. “I have been a hardcore advocate for women and women’s health.”

The ultrasound measure was not Vogel’s only venture into anti-choice legislation while in the state senate. During this year’s primary for the Republican nomination for lieutenant governor, Vogel argued in a February op-ed published in the conservative Bearing Drift that in “the almost ten years that I have served in Virginia’s Senate, I have maintained a 100 percent pro-life voting record—each and every year and have been in the front lines of attacks for my pro-life positions.”

When the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that some provisions of a Texas law regulating abortion providers were unconstitutional and presented an “undue burden” on people seeking abortion care, Vogel noted in a blog post that she had supported similar abortion restrictions in her own state. In the post, published on her campaign’s website, Vogel pushed the false claim that the restrictions were simply “commonsense safety standards.” She introduced her own measure for medically unnecessary targeted regulation of abortion provider (TRAP) laws in Virginia in 2009.

Supreme Court Justice Stephen Breyer wrote of the provisions struck down in the Court’s decision that “when directly asked at oral argument whether Texas knew of a single instance in which the new requirement would have helped even one woman obtain better treatment, Texas admitted that there was no evidence in the record of such a case.”

Fairfax has served as a board member for Planned Parenthood Metro Washington Action Fund. He has been endorsed by NARAL Pro-Choice Virginia, citing his “100 percent score” on its candidate questionnaire.

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