Sen. Howell Plays Important Role in Derailing Virginia Anti-Abortion Bill

Spotlighted details of ultrasound procedure

State Sen. Janet Howell, (D-Reston, McLean) played a major role in publicizing the details of an anti-abortion bill that was derailed this week, according to The Washington Post.

The bill, which required women seeking abortions to have an ultrasound, started unravelling when it was slowly revealed that in the first trimester that procedure meant probing inside a woman's vagina, The Post reported.

The story starts when another Fairfax Democratic senator understood how an ultrasound had to be performed in the first trimester and ended in political firestorm fueled by national media attention and late night comedians.

The bill  was approved by the Virginia Senate health committee when Sen. George L. Barker (D-Fairfax), with a background in health care, knew "that in the earliest stages of pregnancy, only a vaginal ultrasound can detect the fetus," buttonholed a Norfolk senator who was a doctor, The Post reported.

Barker and Sen. Ralph Northam (D-Norfolk) discussed this gently during the Senate floor debate but Sen. Howell understood the gentle coded language.

"In an effort to highlight what she considered a gross personal intrusion, she proposed an amendment requiring that men get a" digital rectal exam before they could receive a prescription for erectile dysfunction, The Post reported.

That amendment failed, the ultrasound bill passed the Virginia Senate, but Howell's amendment got the attention of the national media including Rachel Maddow, of MSNBC, The Post said.

By Feb. 10, opponents of the ultrasound bill had dispensed with the gentle language and were bluntly describing a probe inserted into the vagina. Regardless, the Virginia House approved the bill, The Post said.

Enter more national media: more Maddow reporting, Saturday Night Live, and Jon Stewart on "The Daily Show."

Result: political wildfire complete with large demonstrations at the state Capitol Building. Add in Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell rumored to be a possible Republican vice-presidential candidate, Virginia's swing state-status in a year with a hotly contested U.S. Senate  race and the 2012 Presidential race and by Wednesday you had McDonnell asking for changes in the bill.

Read the entire story here. It's long but stick with it.


Sarah O'Neil February 25, 2012 at 12:53 PM
Sad that my Delegate, Barbara Comstock, voted to support this appalling piece of legislation.
Dave Jones February 25, 2012 at 01:41 PM
Let's just remember that this bill passed and the only reason it is getting a second look is that Bob McDonnell does not want to mess up his chance to be selected as a vice presidential candidate by alienating voters. Bob's true belief is that this was an acceptable bill to pass or he would have stepped in earlier before the national press got hold of the story and made it clear to the generally apathetic public what was really behind this sneaky piece of legislation.
Citizen E February 25, 2012 at 03:21 PM
Kudos to State Senator Howell. She gets my vote.
judyrich February 27, 2012 at 03:50 AM
Thanks so much, and special thanks to Senator Northam, who is my senator. Can't say that to my delegate, Mr. Hodges.


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