The Virginia state Senate [official website] on Tuesday voted to repeal [SB 617] a 2012 law [text] requiring women seeking an abortion to undergo an ultrasound. The measure passed after Lieutenant Governor Ralph Northam [official website] cast his vote [AP report] in favor of repeal, breaking a 20-20 tie. After casting his deciding vote Northam released the following statement:
I've said time and time again that legislators— most of whom are men— have no business getting in between the healthcare decisions that a woman and her doctor make. As a practicing physician, I am hopeful that this mandate will ultimately be repealed. I will continue to work to ensure that when a woman has chosen to exercise her constitutional right to an abortion, she can go through that process without unnecessary hurdles that some legislators would seek to put in her way. Today's passage of SB 617 was a step in that direction, and I encourage the members of the House of Delegates to also pass this legislation.The passage of the Senate bill is expected to be largely symbolic as it moves to the Republican controlled House of Delegates.
The issue of pre-abortion ultrasound requirements in a number of states has drawn heavy criticism and legal action. Last month a judge for the US District Court for the Middle District of North Carolina [official website] ruled [JURIST report] that a North Carolina state law requiring women seeking an abortion to undergo an ultrasound procedure is unconstitutional because it violates the First Amendment rights [LII backgrounder] of physicians and patients. In November the US Supreme Court [official website] denied certiorari [JURIST report] in Pruitt v. Nova Health Systems [SCOTUSblog backgrounder], letting stand an Oklahoma Supreme Court ruling striking down [opinion] a law requiring women to be shown ultrasounds of the fetus before undergoing an abortion. In July Ohio Governor John Kasich [official website] also signed abortion restrictions into law [JURIST report] requiring women to first undergo ultrasounds.