RICHMOND, VA—Women's reproductive rights have taken quite a beating over the past year, with 135 laws having been enacted in 36 states that would limit a woman's ability to get an abortion by banning it altogether, increasing waiting periods, prohibiting health insurance from paying for abortion and by targeting women's clinics for bogus building and health code violations. Other laws have restricted a woman's ability to get birth control by allowing pharmacists to reject prescriptions for it, and by attempting to defund Planned Parenthood, where many women obtain low-cost birth control pills.
Another measure anti-choice activists have used to try to stop abortions is to require women seeking a pregnancy termination to watch a sonogram and listen to a detailed description of the fetus, in the hopes that seeing that image will cause women to reconsider their decision. That was the logic behind a law enacted in 2011 in Texas, which a three-judge appeals panel ruled earlier this month could be enforced on physicians which provide abortion services.
Perhaps buoyed by Texas' "success," Virginia state Sen. Jill Vogel (R-Fauquier) has introduced a bill, SB 484, which would foist similar sonogram requirements on the state's abortion doctors. It passed the Republican-dominated Senate Education and Health Committee on Thursday by a party-line vote, 8-7, and was expected to be passed by the full GOP-controlled Senate today.
But what made that bill remarkable was an amendment offered by Sen. Janet Howell (D-Fairfax) that would have required all men seeking Viagra or similar erectile dysfunction medications to undergo both a rectal exam and a cardiac stress test before the drug could be prescribed.
"We need some gender equity here," Howell told the Huffington Post. "The Virginia senate is about to pass a bill that will require a woman to have totally unnecessary medical procedure at their cost and inconvenience. If we're going to do that to women, why not do that to men?"
Howell also pointed out that the ultrasound requirement would have the effect of "adding to the cost" of an abortion and "opening up [women] to emotional blackmail."
Howell's amendment was defeated yesterday by a nearly party-line vote, 21-19, and there's no word yet regarding whether SB 484 has been passed by the full Senate.
UPDATE: The Virginia Senate passed the bill without the Viagra amendment by a vote of 21-18. It now goes to the state's House for approval, which is expected since they've voted in favor of several similar bills in the past, and then on to (conservative) Republican Gov. Bob McDonnell for signature... and then on to the courts for the inevitable constitutional challenge.