Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell signed into law Wednesday a controversial bill that requires women to have abdominal ultrasound exams before undergoing abortions.
The Republican governor's signature means the mandate takes effect in July for abortion providers across Virginia.
The bill not only sparked protests the past three weeks by angry women's rights groups and others that led to 30 arrests at the Capitol Saturday, it subjected Virginia to scorn by columnists and political talk shows and ridicule from television comedians.
It was part of a wave of conservative legislation that had perennially failed in the General Assembly until Republicans gained control of both the House and Senate in the 2011 elections.
Other bills would have stripped state funding for abortions sought by indigent women carrying fetuses that have profound and incapacitating deformities, and would have given embryos full rights of personhood from the moment of conception, a step that would outlaw almost all abortions and even some forms of contraception if the 1973 U.S. Supreme Court ruling that legalized abortion is overturned.
The ultrasound bill initially called for a vaginally invasive form of the examination. After Capitol Square protests, Democratic legislators accusing the bill's GOP backers of sanctioning "state-mandated rape" and being lampooned by "Saturday Night Live" and "The Daily Show with Jon Stewart," McDonnell had his party remove the "transvaginal ultrasound" requirement.
In a statement released Wednesday afternoon, McDonnell said the bill does not interfere with a woman’s right to choose.
“Women have a right to know all the available medical and legal information surrounding the abortion decision before giving legally effective informed consent,” the statement read. “Informed consent is already required prior to an abortion being performed in Virginia, based on the longstanding health care concept that complete information about a medical procedure must be given to a patient before she can freely consent to a procedure. As difficult as an abortion decision is, the information provided by ultrasounds, along with other information given by the doctor pursuant to current law and prevailing medical practice, can help the mother make a fully informed decision.”