Pro-choice groups have been pushing back against a Virginia bill that would require women to undergo ultrasounds before an abortion procedure. The complaints are the ultrasounds are needlessly invasive, not medically necessary, and would be forced on women seeking abortions, even if they don’t want them.

This criticism misses one crucial point: Planned Parenthood policy already requires ultrasounds before abortion procedures.

“That’s just the medical standard,” said Adrienne Schreiber, an official at Planned Parenthood’s Washington, D.C., regional office. “To confirm the gestational age of the pregnancy, before any procedure is done, you do an ultrasound.”

According to Schreiber, Planned Parenthood does require women to give signed consent for abortion procedures, including the ultrasound. But if the women won’t consent to the ultrasound, the abortion cannot take place, according to the group’s national standards.

Schreiber said there are several options at that point. If the woman is uncomfortable with a transvaginal ultrasound, which is more invasive, she can wait until the fetus is large enough to opt for a transabdominal ultrasound.

“But if she’s uncomfortable with a transvaginal ultrasound, then she’s not going to be comfortable with an equally invasive abortion procedure,” Schreiber told me.

Planned Parenthood’s policy undermines a key sticking point for the Virginia legislation. Opponents of the mandatory ultrasound bill say the law would take away a woman’s right to consent to an ultrasound.

“Planned Parenthood gets patient consent. Virginia bill requires ultrasound regardless of consent,” Virginia Delegate David Englin, an opponent of the bill, told me yesterday.

While Planned Parenthood technically does get the patient’s consent, it will not go ahead with the abortion procedure without an ultrasound – which, as it so happens, is virtually the same policy that’s proposed in the Virginia bill.

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