You must have an ultrasound at least 24 hours before your abortion and be asked to see it.

In 2012, the General Assembly and Governor Robert McDonnell passed a law requiring a woman having an abortion to undergo an ultrasound in a separate appointment at least 24 hours before her procedure and for her to be asked to see it. The medical professional performing the ultrasound must certify in writing whether the woman chose to see the image. Additionally, a copy of the picture and the written certification must be kept in the woman’s medical records at the facility for seven years.

The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists and American Medical Association oppose the mandatory ultrasound requirement.

“Intrusive legislation sets a dangerous precedent that would allow government and/or other third parties to mandate what tests, procedures or medicines must be provided to patients. If these efforts are not stopped, patients and our health care system will lose.”

  • Wah, R. of the American Medical Association. (2012, May 28). Letter to the Editor, USA Today.

The mandatory ultrasound law also requires the Virginia Department of Health to maintain a public list of low or no-cost ultrasound providers. In practice, this list is composed solely of anti-abortion groups known as “crisis pregnancy centers” or “CPCs.” These groups are not licensed to provide medical care or regulated by any state agencies. A 2013 report found many Virginia CPCs provide women with medically-inaccurate information about abortion and birth control. Some CPCs even indicated they would not provide a woman with a copy of her ultrasound image if she wanted to use it to fulfill the mandatory ultrasound law and have an abortion.

Sources: Va. Code Ann. § 18.2-76; SB484, 2012; HB462, 2012; NARAL Pro-Choice Virginia “Crisis Pregnancy Centers Revealed” Report; Washington Post, 5/30/2012

“As an administrator of four women’s health centers across the Commonwealth, I have witnessed first-hand the barriers that Virginia’s mandatory ultrasound and 24-hour waiting period law places on women. Politicians decided that providers must perform an ultrasound at least 24 hours before the actual abortion procedure. This law means our patients are forced to return to our facility twice, on separate days, for no medical reason. That all requires additional travel expenses, child care costs, and time off from work. This law is about one thing and one thing only – making it harder to get an abortion and shaming a woman who chooses to access it.”

Jill Abbey, Richmond Medical Center for Women

Stand Up For Abortion Access

Women who have decided to access an abortion should feel safe and supported, not face shame and barriers.