Obtaining a legal, safe abortion in Virginia has just become more difficult as a new mandatory forced ultrasound law goes into effect. The General Assembly approved a bill that requires any pregnant woman or girl seeking to end a pregnancy to first undergo a mandatory forced ultrasound and wait 24 hours before having the actual procedure, regardless of if the ultrasound is medically necessary or not.
Although the waiting period itself is obviously meant to force patients to rethink their decisions, as well as add additional obstacles and expenses to safe abortion care, there is likely another ploy here as well. Just like it a nearly identical bill proposed and eventually tabled in Idaho, Virginia has released a list of places a woman can go in order to obtain free ultrasounds — a list that NARAL Pro-Choice Virginia Executive Director Tarina Keene notes is made up entirely of crisis pregnancy centers.
As Keene explained, the law is ambiguous as to whether an ultrasound obtained at a CPC would actually meet the standards set about in the new law, which states that 24 hours before the termination a “qualified medical professional trained in sonography and working under the supervision of a physician licensed in the Commonwealth shall perform fetal transabdominal ultrasound imaging on the patient undergoing the abortion for the purpose of determining gestational age.“
However, at first glance some of the clinics on the list may not fall under that designation, and two of them even say they aren’t actually clinics.
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Even if the crisis pregnancy centers do perform the ultrasound, there is no rule stating how they will provide that information to a practitioner in charge of doing the abortion, or if they even will, as there are no penalties in place for them if they choose not to.
“There is nothing provided by the state that requires them to actually give them the image,” said Keene, who referred to the clinics’ often deceptive tactics when trying to keep women from having abortions. Keene worried that this could be just one more means a CPC could use to force women into continuing the pregnancy, with ultrasound image transfer “delays” or refusals becoming “just another delay tactic for a woman trying to have an abortion.”
On top of that, with no legal requirements to keep medical data private, just by visiting the clinics women open themselves up to more potential leaked information. The staff, most of whom wouldn’t even be trained medical professionals, would be providing unregulated medical “advice” and medical procedures without any oversight or accountability.
Keene was quick to point out the hypocrisy of the state providing a list of non-medical facilities as places to go to receive a medical exam when the bill itself was passed under the guise of protecting women.
“They are hell-bound to make sure our providers are overly-regulated and [state] it’s for patient safety, and yet they are going to send them to facilities that don’t have oversight.”
“There is nothing that guides any of this,” said Keene. “It’s just bad law.”