Bob McDonnell backs away from controvertial abortion bill

McDonnell originally said he would sign the bill once it was passed by both houses of the Virginia legislature.

In a stunning about-face, pro-life Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell backed away from the controversial proposed bill requiring women to get an intravaginal ultrasound before an abortion procedure, saying the procedure wasn’t necessary.

McDonnell said Wednesday he asking the Virginia General Assembly to amend the bill to state that no woman must undergo the intravaginal ultrasound against their will before an abortion.

“Mandating an invasive procedure in order to give informed consent is not a proper role for the state," the governor said in a statement. “No person should be directed to undergo an invasive procedure by the state, without their consent, as a precondition to another medical procedure.”

The Republican-ruled House of Delegates voted 65-32 on Wednesday for the amended bill that requires only an external ultrasound, not the vaginal insertion of a wand-like device that emits ultrasonic waves.

The Senate approved the Republican-backed measure on a mostly party-line 21-18 vote earlier this week. However, the bill met fierce opposition from Democrats in the legislature and people in Virginia. Hundreds of women and others protested the bill in Richmond this week.

Some women said Wednesday's announcement was a small victory, but many didn't feel he went far enough. In the legislation that passed by the Virginia House of Delegates, there is still a requirement that doctors perform the external ultrasound--a pre-abortion prerequisite that has ignited a political firestorm and garnered national attention.

State Sen. Jill Vogel (R-Fauquier County) said the bill would give women the right to certain information that can be gleaned from an ultrasound, like the gestational age of the fetus.

Vogel's bill says the patient would be given the opportunity to see the image or hear the fetal heartbeat, but would not be required to do so.

Sen. Ralph Northam (D-Norfolk), a pediatric neurologist, argued that government has no business telling doctors and patients what kind of diagnostic tests should be done.

McDonnell previously hinted that he would sign the bill. On Wednesday, though, he said an abdominal ultrasound should be required before an abortion.

The concept behind the mandate was to cut down on the number of women who go through with abortions because pro-life advocates believe once a woman hears that heartbeat, they will change their minds.

The Associated Press contributed to this story.