Virginia's ultrasound law, which went into effect July 1, encourages a trans-vaginal ultrasound and requires a 24-hour waiting period before abortions. The law, signed by Governor Bob McDonnell, introduces an unnecessary procedure to abortions based in social engineering, not medical purposes -- it's a dreadful law and should not have been passed.
The Virginia ultrasound law originally specified that physicians were required to perform a trans-vaginal ultrasound prior to an abortion. The apparent legislative intent is that women will get a clearer look at the developing baby, and will better-hear its heartbeat. The law was later amended to allow women to select an abdominal ultrasound, which she would get anyway, law or no law. Virginia is the eighth state to introduce a law requiring a trans-vaginal pre-abortion ultrasound.
No one can predict the effect of "a better look at the baby." The issue is further clouded by the fact that many protesting or supporting this bill seem unaware that ultrasound procedures are part of every abortion, even early, non-invasive procedures using RU-486, the "abortion pill." Normal pre-abortion ultrasounds are typically abdominal, not trans-vaginal, tests. Their purpose is not to "provide a better look at the baby," but to provide critical data determining gestational age, and to check for dangerous conditions like ectopic pregnancy. Every pregnant woman, whether seeking abortion or prenatal care, has at least one of this type of ultrasound. Most "see the baby" as a normal course of these procedures, but few seeking abortions likely hear a heartbeat.
The trans-vaginal ultrasound emphasized by the law is typically used under special circumstances during pregnancy. More often, the test is used to diagnose problems when fibroid tumors, ovarian cysts, and abnormal menstrual bleeding are present. Trans-vaginal ultrasounds are also used when an abdominal ultrasound is ineffective due to excess abdominal weight.
The opponents of the law are hysterical. Mother Jones' Kate Sheppard said that the law harmed women by requiring "a sonogram probe to be shoved up their vagina" as if the legislators were literally sticking the medical instrument inside women and such a thing would never occur otherwise. My first thought upon reading this was of another common medical instrument, the speculum, which can never be legislated into something "better" or more comfortable. In the world of abortion politics, hysteria almost universally trumps reality and common sense.
The Virginia ultrasound law makes assumptions about abortions and women which are untrue on a medical, and on a human basis, amounting to a giant waste of time and money on everyone's part, and even potential harm, as it directs doctors away from well-established procedures to concentrate on the law's requirements.
The best time to reduce abortions is prior to conception, and the choice at that time belongs to the men and women who are engaging in procreation, not legislators or advocates.