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Out of the Vagina

Personhood is nixed while controversial ultrasound-abortion bill gets rewritten.

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UPDATE: In an unexpected turn, the state Senate referred the so-called "personhood" bill back to committee for further review Thursday afternoon, carrying the legislation over until 2013.

From trans-vaginal to trans-abdominal, the controversial ultrasound bill was amended on Thursday. After pushback from Gov. Bob McDonnell and a heaping of national attention from the likes of Saturday Night Live and The Daily Show, the Republicans are retreating a bit. At least for the moment.

During a standing-room only Senate committee hearing at the General Assembly, Delegate Kathy J. Byron, R-Lynchburg, the chief sponsor of the controversial bill requiring women submit to fetal ultrasounds before abortions, lashed out a bit at the “misinformation” that spread about her bill. The legislation, she says, is merely intended to make sure that women facing such a difficult decision have all the facts.

“I have always been … supportive of the woman’s ability to have the right information that will assist in them making a very life-changing decision,” she told the Senate health and education committee. She offered some key amendments, and the bill now requires only that women receive trans-abdominal ultrasounds before abortion procedures. The previous, widely satirized version of the bill required “trans-vaginal” ultrasounds, namely because vaginal ultrasounds are often the only effective way to get a clear picture of the fetus during early stages of pregnancy.

That isn’t really the issue, of course. It’s the idea that the state law would require such a procedure. Democrats have taken every opportunity to point out the ideological conflict: the same Republicans who oppose Obamacare on the grounds that the government has no place in the doctor’s office were supporting government-mandated vaginal probing.

The ultrasound bill, the amended version, was approved by the Senate health and education committee, and as was Delegate Robert Marshall’s equally famous “personhood bill.” Both were headed to the full Senate this afternoon.

But not before some pretty interesting politicking. During after the Thursday’s meeting, the issue turned contentious and a bit rough. Sen. Janet Howell, D-Fairfax, who famously attached an amendment to the ultrasound bill requiring men undergo a rectal exam prior to receiving prescriptions for erectile dysfunction, lashed out: “So what I’ve been observing over the last several weeks, the last six weeks, since the Republicans got domination here in Richmond, is we are racing to the dark ages for ideological reasons,” she said. She was admonished by the committee chair, Sen. Stephen Martin, R-Chesterfield, but elicited whoops from the audience.

After the meeting, a group of protestors were ejected from the General Assembly building for chanting and screaming “shame, shame” at Marshall as he talked with reporters in the hallway, capping a wild week.

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