Virginia Proposal Mandating Ultrasound Before Abortion Debated

bjbjLULU JUDY WOODRUFF: Now to the heated
battle over reproductive and abortion rights. It’s a debate that has been playing out heavily
in many states over the past year. Virginia is the latest, as national attention has focused
on a proposed law. A furor gripped Virginia’s state legislature in recent days, as Republicans
pushed to mandate ultrasound testing, which would be internal, for many women seeking
abortions. On Monday, more than 1,000 people, mostly women, held a silent protest against
the bill outside the state capitol in Richmond. JON STEWART, “The Daily Show With Jon Stewart”:
Oh, man, transvaginal ultrasound? JUDY WOODRUFF: And the proposal quickly drew the attention
of national television, including “The Daily Show.” With criticism rising, Virginia’s Republican
governor, Bob McDonnell, mentioned as a potential vice presidential nominee, yesterday announced
he’d changed his mind. He issued a statement that read — quote — “Mandating an invasive
procedure in order to give informed consent is not a proper role for the state.” Instead,
McDonnell said, the bill should — quote — “explicitly state that no woman in Virginia will have
to undergo a transvaginal ultrasound involuntarily.” Within hours, Virginia’s House of Delegates
did just that, passing a version that requires the more traditional external abdominal ultrasound,
but makes the transvaginal test optional. KATHY BYRON (R): The amendment, I believe,
enhances the bill. It’s still consistently pro-life. JUDY WOODRUFF: Democratic opponents
said even the amended legislation calls for a pointless procedure. JENNIFER MCCLELLAN
(D): What you have done is mandated, for any abortion done early in a pregnancy, an ultrasound
that will be utterly useless. JUDY WOODRUFF: According to the Guttmacher Institute, which
studies reproductive health issues, Texas is the only state that effectively enforces
a transvaginal ultrasound before abortions. Arizona, Kansas, Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama
and Florida require an ultrasound, but leave it to the physician to determine the type.
MAN: You’re killing a baby. WOMAN: Are you proud of your position? MAN: Yes, I am. JUDY
WOODRUFF: But the battle in Virginia highlights nationwide efforts to roll back access to
abortions and related services. Last year, 24 states imposed new curbs on abortion services.
They included bans, waiting periods and clinic regulations. Many states also cut funding
to family planning services and providers. The next state to enter the fray may be Pennsylvania,
where lawmakers may require ultrasounds at least 24 hours before an abortion. A vote
is expected some time in April. For more on the battle over these questions in Virginia
and nationally, we turn to Charmaine Yoest. She’s president of Americans United for Life,
which backs the proposed Virginia law. And Nancy Keenan, she’s president of NARAL Pro-Choice
America, which opposes it. And we thank you both for being here. NANCY KEENAN, National
Abortion Rights Action League: Thank you. CHARMAINE YOEST, Americans United For Life:
Thank you. JUDY WOODRUFF: What has made this Virginia legislation such a flash point, Nancy
Keenan? NANCY KEENAN: I think, look, they ve overreached in Virginia. And we saw that
the other day when over 1,000 and more people showed up to express their disappointment.
And I think this is a place where a state law is requiring a woman to undergo a procedure
she didn’t ask for, nor that her doctor recommended, and that these are politicians that are practicing
medicine without a license. JUDY WOODRUFF: Was it an overreach, Charmaine Yoest? CHARMAINE
YOEST: Absolutely not. And it is very political, and it’s because it’s an election season and
it’s because Virginia is a swing state in this election. And so the pro-abortion forces
are trying very hard to pursue a disinformation campaign about this law. This is a protective
law that is working to protect women’s health to ensure that they get the gold standard
of medical care prior to an abortion. JUDY WOODRUFF: So you’re saying it’s about medical
care. You’re saying it’s what, it’s about what? NANCY KEENAN: It’s about a forced procedure.
I think — you know, they talk about it being informed consent. It is neither. This is not
about information, nor is it about consent. Women are going to be forced, against their
will, to undergo a procedure, again, that she didn’t ask for, it’s not medically necessary,
nor did the doctor recommend. And I think this is where politicians don’t belong, in
that place between a woman and her doctor in this decision. JUDY WOODRUFF: Charmaine
Yoest, are you saying that the procedure wouldn’t have been required? Is that what your argument
here is? CHARMAINE YOEST: I just don’t even know how Nancy can say this in good conscience
in terms of protecting women’s health. Look, the chairman of the Americans United For Life’s
board is an OB-GYN. Our attorneys have been working on this bill, and so I can tell you
exactly what it’s all about. Ultrasounds are the gold standard for protecting women’s health.
You need to have an ultrasound prior to an abortion in order to determine the gestational
age of the baby. You need to know where the baby is located. There’s a host of just standard
medical practice for ensuring that the woman is safe. One thing, Judy, that many people
may not know is that the FDA has noted that at least two women have died after being given
chemical abortions after having an ectopic pregnancy. So this protects a woman’s life.
This is a very, serious situation. JUDY WOODRUFF: So what I’m hearing is that it’s important
for the well-being of the woman to have this ultrasound? NANCY KEENAN: Well, let me tell
you, this is about women and a decision that is with her doctor. These are politicians
who think they know the situation of every woman in this country, whether it’s in Virginia
or across this country, that they know the situation, they know what’s going on in her
life, they know what’s going on with her medical situation. And, again, these are politicians
that are wanting to mandate, mandate a procedure that she didn’t ask for. . . CHARMAINE YOEST:
No. NANCY KEENAN: . . . nor did the doctor say was necessary. JUDY WOODRUFF: In fact,
Gov. McDonnell of Virginia said in his statement it would mandate an invasive procedure in
order to give informed consent. CHARMAINE YOEST: Well, Nancy’s misrepresenting what
the bill would do. And, again, our attorneys worked on this bill, so I can tell you it
didn’t mandate and doesn’t at this point mandate what kind of sonogram. It simply mandates
that the standard of care is followed. So it does leave it up to the doctor to decide
what kind of sonogram is needed in that situation to — for him to get the information that
he needs to ensure that the woman’s health is protected. JUDY WOODRUFF: So are you saying
the governor is incorrect in his statement? CHARMAINE YOEST: I’m saying that what the
bill does is mandate a sonogram, and the doctor decides. It’s based on a standard of care.
If you call Planned Parenthood in Virginia, they always do a sonogram before an abortion,
because that’s the gold standard. NANCY KEENAN: So then why do you need the state law? Then
why are you — why are these folks that are advancing this kind of legislation requiring
a woman, requiring — there’s no informed consent here. There’s no decision. She is
mandated by the law to have a procedure. CHARMAINE YOEST: I would love to answer that question.
JUDY WOODRUFF: Very quickly, because I want to broaden this out and ask about the moves
that are taking place nationally. Did you want to comment just briefly? CHARMAINE YOEST:
Well, when you think about nationally, we see women who die from — and think about
Kermit Gosnell and the house of horrors in Philadelphia, with abortion clinics that are
horribly. . . JUDY WOODRUFF: I’m not familiar with. . . CHARMAINE YOEST: He’s on trial now
for women who died in his abortion clinic. Some of these abortion clinics are very, very
dangerous places for women. And we need to protect their health by ensuring that a standard
of care is followed. And sonograms are the gold standard. JUDY WOODRUFF: I want to ask
you, Nancy Keenan, about moves, as we reported, in, what, 24 states to discourage abortion
through one requirement or another. What concerns you and your organization and others who agree
with you about this? NANCY KEENAN: We have seen twice as many anti-choice pieces of legislation
passed in 2011 than we did in 2010. I think that these are folks that ran for office,
whether it was a state legislature or here in Congress, ran on jobs and the economy,
and now are absolutely attacking women’s health and particularly reproductive health. The
hypocrisy here. At the same time that they want to mandate women to undergo an ultrasound,
they are also trying to defund family planning, access to birth control. There’s a hypocrisy
here. JUDY WOODRUFF: So are you saying there’s a coordinated effort nationwide to do this?
NANCY KEENAN: Absolutely. Absolutely. There’s a strategy to defund women having access to
birth control and family planning, at the same time making all of these barriers so
women can’t access a legal, a legal procedure in this country. JUDY WOODRUFF: Is that what’s
taking place? CHARMAINE YOEST: The problem is, is that the abortion lobby is afraid that
a woman having access to a sonogram might be dissuaded by having the full information
about her baby’s development and about the abortion procedure. JUDY WOODRUFF: But across
the board nationally, with these other requirements that have been proposed or enacted, longer
waiting time, we mentioned some of the other ways. . . CHARMAINE YOEST: We saw 28 pieces
of AUL-based legislation passed this last year, and there has been a dramatic increase.
. . JUDY WOODRUFF: And how much of that is coordinated across the country? CHARMAINE
YOEST: Well, there was a huge influx of pro-life legislators who were elected by the people.
So they’re responding to their constituents who want to see greater protections across
the board. We’re talking about parental consent, informed consent, things that people, the
vast majority of the American people do support. NANCY KEENAN: This is so out of touch with
America’s priorities and values. Americans are saying, look, we elected you to fix the
economy and jobs. And these folks have shown up, again, attacking health care for women,
and that the priorities and values — people say, stay out of the business between a doctor,
a woman, her family. Stay out of this relationship and the decisions we make with regard to our
health care that is based on the freedom and privacy in this country. JUDY WOODRUFF: What
is the goal of these state-by-state efforts, Charmaine Yoest? Is it to get as close as
possible to practically overturn Roe vs. Wade? What would you say is the goal? CHARMAINE
YOEST: I think it’s responding to the fact that the majority of the American people say
that they’re pro-life. And there’s a huge consensus in this country on commonsense regulations
on abortion like sonograms. Sonogram laws are — in 22 states have passed because the
American people think this is commonsense things that we can all agree on no matter
what your opinion on abortion is. Informed consent, parental consent, these are things
that the American people do agree on. JUDY WOODRUFF: Nancy Keenan, if this is the result
of individuals elected to the state legislature and they’re doing what they believe, it’s
the political process, right? NANCY KEENAN: It is. And elections matter. And I think you’re
going to see that as we head into 2012, whether it’s the presidential and the difference in
having somebody like President Obama, who believes in the freedom and privacy and — of
a woman’s right to choose and/or these legislators at the state level who also have an agenda
here, to put barriers in front of women, to deny them, to deny them the privacy of their
doctor relationship in choosing a legal abortion in this country. And it’s wrong. CHARMAINE
YOEST: I can’t understand why, when you see situations where women have died at the hands
of abortionists in this country, that you wouldn’t be behind ensuring that they get
the highest standard of medical care, when you know that that’s been a problem across
the country. NANCY KEENAN: Judy, this is not about medical care. This is about harassment,
coercion and intimidating women, intimidating, when you force a procedure and then force
them to sign a waiver that says they will listen to the heartbeat, to force them to
have to look at a sonogram. This is not about protecting women. This is about a forced medical
procedure. And it’s wrong. CHARMAINE YOEST: I don’t think you should be afraid for women
to have informed consent and to know everything they need to know before a medical procedure.
JUDY WOODRUFF: We are going to leave it there. We thank you both very much for being here,
Nancy Keenan, Charmaine Yoest. NANCY KEENAN: Thank you. CHARMAINE YOEST: Thank you. h3-j
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