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Virginia lawmakers back off requiring invasive ultrasound before abortion

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Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell says he wants amendments to an ultrasound-before-abortion bill.

Updated at 6:35 p.m. ET: RICHMOND, Va. -- State Republican legislators have scrapped a bitterly contested proposal to require women seeking abortions to undergo invasive ultrasound imaging.

Shortly after Republican Gov. Bob McDonnell announced his opposition to the Republican bill, the state House on Wednesday approved a substitute version that still mandates an ultrasound but makes the transvaginal procedure optional.

The House of Delegates voted 65-32 for the watered-down version. Under the substitute, women would still be required to have an ultrasound before an abortion to determine the gestational age, but women subject to a transvaginal procedure would be able to decline, the Richmond Times-Dispatch reported.

That likely dooms the measure.


The amended bill now returns to the Senate where its sponsor, Sen. Jill Vogel, said she will strike the legislation.

"There are moments when you are a legislator when you have to stop and you have to have a moment of real conscience,” Vogel said, according to the Richmond Times-Dispatch. “I sort of had that moment this morning considering the outcome and the fate of this bill.”  

Vogel said after hearing from doctors and other constituents that she felt she could not did not “carry the bill in its current form.”

The House action came moments after McDonnell -- facing outrage from women and appeals from GOP moderates -- announced he was opposing the original bill requiring vaginal probes.

McDonnell, a social conservative who says he is "pro-life," appealed for amendments to the bitterly contested legislation. In a transvaginal ultrasound, a wand-like device is inserted and used to send out sound waves.

Until this week, McDonnell and his aides had said the governor would sign the measure if it made it to his desk.

"Over the past days I have discussed the specific language of the proposed legislation with other governors, physicians, attorneys, legislators, advocacy groups, and citizens. It is apparent that several amendments to the proposed legislation are needed to address various medical and legal issues which have arisen," the governor said in a written statement.

Among the amendments McDonnell proposed: to explicitly state that no woman will have to undergo a transvaginal ultrasound involuntarily, and that only an external ultrasound will be required to satisfy the requirements to determine gestational age.

The bill had already won Senate passage. Opponents say it amounts to the state violating a woman's privacy. Supporters say it is medically prudent to determine fetal gestational age and, perhaps, discourage abortions.

Related: Texas begins enforcing strict anti-abortion sonogram law

While the original Virginia bill does require an ultrasound, it does not require the woman to view it, making it less strict than laws in Texas and Oklahoma, according to The New York Times.

More than 1,000 people, most of them women, on Monday locked arms and stood mute outside the Virginia State Capitol to protest the bill and other anti-abortion legislation under consideration by state lawmakers.

Comedian Jon Stewart poked fun at the measure Tuesday night on Comedy Central’s “Daily Show.”

The Associated Press and NBC12.com contributed to this story.

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