Virginia's Senate has passed legislation that would require women seeking abortions to undergo noninvasive ultrasounds, days after eliminating a stipulation that the exams be conducted through a vaginal procedure that had drawn the scorn of commentators and TV comedians.
The chamber narrowly controlled by Republicans split 21-19, mostly along party lines, in approving the amended measure Tuesday.
The bill returns to Virginia's House for expected concurrence on amendments added last week that would eliminate mandatory invasive vaginal ultrasounds and would exempt victims of rape and incest who reported the crimes to police.
Senators on Tuesday rejected several amendments that would have made the procedure optional. By the end of the hour-long floor debate, tempers flared.
Republicans said the intent of the bill was to ensure that women would be fully informed about the gestational age of their fetuses as they make up their minds whether to abort them. Seven states have laws mandating some form of pre-abortion ultrasound exam.
But female Democrats in particular angrily criticized Republicans and Lt. Gov. Bill Bolling, a Republican who broke several tie votes in favor of his party in rejecting amendments that would have blunted the measure.
"The arrogance of this body in telling women what to do with their bodies," Sen. L. Louise Lucas of Portsmouth said, thrusting her finger toward the Republican side of the chamber.
Sen. Mamie Locke accused Republicans of seeking the bill to "guilt women out of terminating a pregnancy."
The ultrasound bill, particularly before the mandatory invasive procedure was removed last week, was the most controversial of a wave of anti-abortion legislation rolling through Virginia's General Assembly, newly under the rule of Republican conservatives.