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 prior to 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, and a copy of the image and the written certification must be kept in the woman’s medical records at the facility for seven years.
The mandatory ultrasound requirement is opposed by the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists and the American Medical Association.
“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 that Editor, USA Today.
The law also requires the Virginia Department of Health to maintain a 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 offices are not medical providers and are not licensed, overseen, or regulated by any state agencies. A 2013 report found many Virginia CPCs provide women with medically-inaccurate information and some refuse to provide a woman with a copy of her ultrasound if they know she intends to have an abortion.
“As an administrator for three women’s health centers across the Commonwealth, I have witnessed first-hand the barriers that Virginia’s mandatory ultrasound and 24-hour waiting period requirements have on Virginia women and the doctors that serve them. Our patients are often forced to return to our facility as many as three times before accessing an abortion procedure – which means additional travel expenses, child care costs, and time off work.”