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Virginia Ultrasound Bill: Republican Lawmaker Calls Abortion 'Lifestyle Convenience'

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A top Republican legislative leader in Virginia described abortion as a "lifestyle convenience" during the floor debate on a controversial measure to require trans-vaginal ultrasounds before a woman can get an abortion.

State Del. C. Todd Gilbert (R-Woodstock) made the comment midday Tuesday as the House of Delegates took up consideration of the ultrasound bill. The bill -- which then passed the House 63 to 36 -- would require any woman seeking an abortion in the state to receive an ultrasound first. As an external ultrasound is not able to produce a necessary picture early in pregnancy, a trans-vaginal ultrasound would be needed to produce an image of the fetus or embryo.

While addressing the debate, Gilbert, the House's deputy majority leader, took to the floor to support the bill. The Shenandoah Valley lawmaker used his floor statement to describe most abortions as a "lifestyle convenience" for women. Witnesses said that Gilbert did not clarify which abortions he does not consider to be "lifestyle conveniences."

Within minutes of Gilbert's statement, two Democratic lawmakers -- Del. Mark Keam (D-Fairfax County) and Del. David Englin (D-Alexandria) -- both sent out the remarks on Twitter. Englin, who commented "Wow" in his Tweet about Gilbert's floor statement, said that Gilbert's exact words were "a matter of lifestyle convenience."

Gilbert has not returned a call from The Huffington Post for comment on his statement. Aides to Gilbert said the lawmaker was on the House floor and then in meetings off the floor following adjournment of today's session.

Debate on the bill ended shortly after Gilbert's statement, preventing Democratic lawmakers from responding. The bill's passage followed the state Senate's approval of a similar bill earlier this month. Virginia legislators are expected to pass final versions of the ultrasound bill before the legislative session ends in March. Lawmakers also passed the state's personhood bill today.

During the ultrasound bill debate, Englin offered an amendment requiring a woman's consent to the trans-vaginal ultrasound procedure, which was rejected by the Republican-controlled House.

Democrats have criticized Gilbert's floor statement, and Englin said that the statement is in line with previous Republican comments on the issue. He noted he had a conversation with one GOP lawmaker regarding his amendment where the lawmaker had told him that women had already made the decision to be "vaginally penetrated when they got pregnant."

"For him to be so dismissive of women to control their own reproductive decisions is shocking," Englin said. "This is not abortion as contraception this about women facing difficult circumstances. It is unfortunate that he used that language."

Gov. Bob McDonnell (R) is expected to sign the ultrasound bill.

Clarification: This article has been updated to include that a trans-vaginal ultrasound would also be needed to produce an image of an embryo, in the very early stages of conception.

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