A Republican-controlled committee in the Virginia State Senate voted 8-7 on Thursday to block Democrats' efforts to repeal a new mandatory ultrasound law and a set of regulations that could shut down many abortion clinics in the state. The committee also voted down a new anti-abortion bill that would have prevented Medicaid from paying for low-income women's abortions in cases where there is a severe fetal anomaly.
Virginia Republicans attracted national criticism in early 2012 when they proposed a bill requiring women to undergo invasive, medically unnecessary transvaginal ultrasound procedures before having an abortion. Gov. Bob McDonnell (R) later helped Republicans revise the bill to require only external, "jelly-on-the-belly" procedures, and he signed that version into law.
State Sen. Ralph Northam (D), the only physician in the senate, proposed a bill that would repeal the mandatory ultrasound law because he says it violates the privacy and sanctity of the doctor-patient relationship. "I am giving you the opportunity to right the wrong committed last year," he told committee members on Thursday.
The Medical Society of Virginia and the Virginia American College of Obstetricians testified in favor of repealing the ultrasound bill, echoing Northam's concerns.
Victoria Cobb, president of the Family Foundation of Virginia and a top anti-abortion lobbyist, also testified at the hearing. She accused abortion providers of "hiding the picture" of the ultrasound from women in order to prevent them from changing their minds and to increase profits, according to The American Independent's Reilly Moore.
The Senate Health and Education Committee voted along party lines to block the repeal of the ultrasound law, as well as the repeal of a set of abortion clinic regulations, known as Targeted Regulation of Abortion Providers, or TRAP. The law requires that first-trimester abortion clinics meet the same building standards as newly constructed hospitals.
State Sen. Mark Herring (D), the sponsor of the bill to repeal the TRAP law, said he is going to continue fighting to keep the clinics open. "What [the committee] did was wrong," he told The Huffington Post. "I think the votes today indicate that Republicans still have an extreme agenda, and they're intent on reducing access to women's health care."
The committee also voted down an anti-abortion bill on Thursday. One Republican on the committee, State Sen. Harry Blevins (R), crossed over and voted with Democrats to kill a bill that would have banned state-subsidized abortions for women with severely impaired fetuses.
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99 Problems (JAY-Z)
Eric Fehrnstrom, senior campaign adviser for Mitt Romney, <a href="http://thinkprogress.org/politics/2012/06/03/494238/fehrnstrom-shiny-objects-women/" target="_hplink">said on Sunday</a> that issues pertaining to women's reproductive rights, such as abortion and birth control, were "shiny objects" meant to distract voters from the real issues. "Mitt Romney is pro-life," he told ABC's George Stephanopoulos. "He'll govern as a pro-life president, but you're going to see the Democrats use all sorts of shiny objects to distract people's attention from the Obama performance on the economy. This is not a social issue election."
The Senate will vote Thursday on the Paycheck Fairness Act, which would expand and strengthen the Equal Pay Act of 1963 and make it illegal for employers to punish women for bringing up pay disparity issues. Dana Perino, a Fox News contributor and former press secretary for President George W. Bush, <a href="http://www.rawstory.com/rs/2012/04/30/perino-equal-pay-issue-is-a-distraction-for-just-48-hours/" target="_hplink">called the equal pay issue</a> "a distraction" from the country's real financial problems last week. "Well, it's just yet another distraction of dealing with the major financial issues that the country should be dealing with," Perino said. "This is not a job creator."
Just My Imagination (The Temptations)
Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.), whose home state's legislature recently defunded Planned Parenthood and voted to pass a bill that would allow employers to deny women birth control coverage, <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/04/26/john-mccain-war-on-women_n_1455591.html" target="_hplink">delivered a floor speech</a> in which he insisted that the war on women is something imaginary for Democrats to "sputter about." "My friends, this supposed 'War on Women' or the use of similarly outlandish rhetoric by partisan operatives has two purposes, and both are purely political in their purpose and effect: The first is to distract citizens from real issues that really matter and the second is to give talking heads something to sputter about when they appear on cable television," he said.
Butterfly Fly Away (Miley & Billy Ray Cyrus)
Republican National Committee Chairman Reince Priebus tried to trivialize concerns about the legislative "war on women" by comparing it to a "war on caterpillars." "If the Democrats said we had a war on caterpillars and every mainstream media outlet talked about the fact that Republicans have a war on caterpillars, then we'd have problems with caterpillars," Priebus <a href="http://www.bloomberg.com/news/2012-04-05/priebus-says-gender-battle-as-fictonal-as-caterpillar-war.html" target="_hplink">said in an April interview</a> on Bloomberg Television. "It's a fiction."
Distraction (Angels And Airwaves)
Missouri U.S. Senate candidate Sarah Steelman (R) took heat from her opponents in May when she contended that Democratic lawmakers' focus on the reauthorization of the Violence Against Women Act was "a distraction" from the issues they should be dealing with instead. "I think it's unfortunate that the Democrats have made a political football out of this thing, which I think is what they keep doing to distract from real problems that are facing our nation," she said in an interview with St. Louis Public Radio.
We Don't Care (Kanye West)
South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley (R) defended the Republican Party in April for going after insurance coverage for contraception by arguing that women don't actually care about contraception. "Women don't care about contraception," she said on ABC's The View. "They care about jobs and the economy and raising their families and all those other things."