Alison B. Linas


This comment will discuss how the ultrasound bill, like similar ones in other states, is unconstitutional for two reasons. First, requiring a woman to undergo a medically unnecessary procedure at her own expense is an undue burden under Planned Parenthood v. Casey. Second, the Supreme Court has held that competent people have the right to refuse medical care. By requiring a woman to have an ultrasound, the State is depriving her of her constitutional right to refuse care. Part 11 of this comment will focus on the Supreme Court's role in shaping abortion policy. Part II(A) concerns the history of abortion rights, starting with Roe v. Wade and ending with Planned Parenthood v. Casey. I will discuss the expansion of the right to privacy to include the right to have an abortion, and explain the "undue burden" standard adopted in Casey. Part II(B) will discuss the Supreme Court's recognition of a rational adult's right to refuse medical care. Part III will describe Virginia's new ultrasound requirement and how the above-mentioned Supreme Court decisions affect the new bill's legality. Part III(A) will lay out the relevant portions of the bill and discuss its legislative history. Part III(B) will analyze the bill through Casey's undue burden lens. This section will conclude that the bill creates an undue burden on the women it purports to help for a variety of reasons. First, ultrasounds before first trimester abortions are medically unnecessary." Second, requiring a woman to have a medically unnecessary procedure interferes with the doctor-patient relationship. Third, the cost of the ultrasound is prohibitively expensive to many women. Finally, being forced to have a medically unnecessary procedure and to see (and hear) the images on the screen may cause psychological issues for the mother. Part III(C) will argue that requiring a woman to have a mandatory medical procedure effectively prevents her from refusing medical care, a right given to her by the Supreme Court. Part IV will state the conclusion that Virginia's new ultrasound requirement should be found unconstitutional because it violates both a woman's right to have an abortion without an "undue burden" and her right to refuse medical care.