Protests are still waging in Virginia as the state legislature is still debating whether or not it will pass a controversial new abortion law that would require women to undergo a trans-vaginal ultrasound before undergoing the procedure.

While the Republican-led legislature argues they are aiming to lower the abortion rate by arming women with “the facts,” opponents of the bill say it is tantamount to state-sponsored sexual assault.

The divide stems from a provision in the bill that would require women to undergo a medically unnecessary trans-vaginal ultrasound before she is able to have an abortion within the first trimester (when over 90% of abortions take place).

Unlike other ultrasounds which are non-invasive, a trans-vaginal ultrasound involves a probe being inserted into a woman’s vagina. Democrats unsuccessfully attempted to amend the bill to require a woman’s consent to the invasive procedure before it is done, but the amendment was defeated by the Republican-controlled legislature.

Women’s groups are outraged over the requirement, and claim it violates Virginia’s object sexual penetration statute, which says that inserting an object into someone against their will, unless medically necessary, is a crime. Moreover, insurance companies are not likely to cover a medically unnecessary procedure, which would shift the cost of the trans-vaginal ultrasound to the women seeking an abortion.

Virginia’s Governor Robert McDonnell initially said that he’d sign the bill once it passed the legislature, but after over 1200 men and women engaged in a silent protest over the proposed law, he is now changing his tune. According to Gov. McDonnell’s office, he will now “review” the bill if it is passed.

This is just one of two controversial abortion laws proposed in Virginia. They are also considering a “personhood amendment” which would grant constitutional rights to embryos at conception, and effectively end access to abortion procedures in the state.

Virginia’s tough anti-abortion stance is just another in a long list of measures aiming to limit women’s access to reproductive rights. From defunding Planned Parenthood to the current debating surrounding access to birth control, it seems like many want to drag us back to the bad old days when women could not choose what to do with our bodies.

What do you think? Is Virginia’s proposed law akin to sexual assault? 

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