Press Release from Senator Vogel: SB 484

February 23, 2012
Senator Jill Vogel

Yesterday, on the Senate floor I stated my intention to strike SB 484, the informed consent bill that recently passed in the Senate.

The original intent of the bill was simple. It was to bring Virginia's informed consent rules in line with current reproductive technology. The bill offered a woman the opportunity to view the results of an ultrasound in advance of a procedure to terminate a pregnancy and it was strictly optional. Women would not be forced to view the results of the ultrasound, only given the opportunity to do so.  My bill was based on language used in 20 other states that have similar informed consent laws.

This was all consistent with the information provided during initial discussions about the measure. Clinics currently perform - and recommend - ultrasound as a routine part of screening. The procedure is considered to be a safety measure constituting current "best practices." We were also informed that Planned Parenthood uses the same ultrasound technology in their clinics and that the National Abortion Federation includes the procedure in their standards.

Further, physicians had explained that ultrasounds reflect the standard of care required to safely perform a procedure. The ultrasound is the only way to determine gestational age and to screen for serious complications (like ectopic pregnancy), which place the mother at increased risk. Finally, patient advocates have emphasized how critical it is that women have access to information in order to make good decisions about their health.

Ironically, that was precisely the Senate’s posture on a mammogram bill that was voted unanimously out of committee just minutes before my bill was heard. The mammogram bill required that women be provided results of certain mammograms tests.

It was never my intent to force a woman to have a vaginal screening against her will, only to ensure that women seeking abortions are fully informed and that current state-of-the-art safety procedures are followed. Yesterday, I stated on the Senate floor that I would strike the bill. I regret that I had to do so over the objections of the Governor and others who have worked hard on the bill. But at this point in the process, it was for me a matter of conscience.

I say this because in recent days, new information about the ultrasound bill has placed a number of facts in conflict. I have received feedback from physicians, clinicians, lawyers and constituents and clearly, I do not have all of the answers. Also, information came to me yesterday that the Governor was hurrying amendments to the floor. In light of all of that, I knew it was time for me to call “time out” on my bill.

As similar legislation in the form of the House Bill 462 continues its way through the legislative process, we now have a new opportunity to hear the bill, with ample opportunity to address the legal and technical concerns and appropriately amend that bill. It is certainly my hope that the real mission of the legislation will be fulfilled in that final bill.