The state Senate this afternoon gave preliminary approval for legislation that would require pregnant women to undergo ultrasound imaging before an abortion, but not before rejecting a Democratic senator’s attempt to add what she described as “ a little gender equity” to the bill.
On a voice vote, the Republican-controlled Senate advanced the controversial legislation and set up a final floor vote on Tuesday. But the Senate first voted down a floor amendment from Democrat Janet Howell of Fairfax County, who proposed requiring men to undergo a rectal exam and a cardiac stress test before getting prescriptions for erectile dysfunction drugs.
“This is a matter of basic fairness,” Howell said.
Senate Bill 484 would require a pregnant woman to undergo ultrasound imaging to determine the gestation age of the fetus, and be given an opportunity to view the ultrasound image, before having an abortion. The proposed law also requires the abortion provider to keep a printed copy of the ultrasound image in the patient’s file.
The bill cleared the Senate Education and Health Committee on a party-line vote last week, with the panel’s GOP majority providing the votes to get the measure to the floor. Abortion opponents have fought for the legislation. Abortion rights advocates argue that the ultrasound requirement would subject women to unnecessary procedures and limit the discretion of doctors.
Howell said she left last week’s committee meeting feeling “quiet distressed and angry” about the bill.
“It’s requiring them to have unnecessary medical procedures, it’s adding to the cost and it’s opening them up for emotional blackmail,” she said on the Senate floor today. “And I was upset because it’s disrespectful of doctors. It’s forcing them to perform procedures they don’t think is necessary.”
She said she was watching television in her hotel room that evening and saw an ad for an erectile dysfunction drug that included a recitation of “all the serious things that could happen to a man who was going to take this medication.” So she decided government should get involved, she said.
“So, I said, it’s only fair, that if we’re going to subject women to unnecessary procedures, and we’re going to subject doctors to having to do things that they don’t think is medically advisory, well, Mr. President, I think we should just have a little gender equity here,” Howell said, explaining her amendment
The bill’s sponsor, Sen. Jill Vogel, R-Fauquier County, disagreed.
“I do believe that erectile dysfunction in this context is different from pregnancy,” Vogel said.
The amendment was defeated on a 21-19 vote.
– Michael Sluss