The Virginia General Assembly has approved a 24-hour mandatory waiting period for women seeking abortions, continuing a nationwide trend of tightening access to the procedure.

Under the bill, physicians must provide counseling, including medical explanations of abortion and its alternatives, at least 24 hours before an abortion is performed. Other information, such as pictures of fetal development and information about adoption, must also be offered.

Doctors must receive a patient's written consent, except in cases of medical emergencies, before performing an abortion. Failure to abide by the February bill could result in a $2,500 fine.

Opponents of the measure say it is a barrier to abortion access. "Forcing a woman to wait after she's already made the decision is demeaning," said Dayle Steinberg, a Planned Parenthood representative in Pennsylvania, where a similar law took effect in 1994. "It assumes that women haven't already given thought to their decision."

Meanwhile, the National Abortion and Reproductive Rights Action League reports that 43 prolife measures were passed at the state level last year, compared to 27 in support of abortion rights.

The Virginia bill now goes to Gov. James S. Gilmore. If signed, it will take effect October 1.

Related Elsewhere

See The Washington Post's coverage of the bill:
Virginia Approves Limits on Abortion | Assembly Conservatives Affirm 24-Hour Delay (Feb. 7, 2001)

Va. Senate Approves 24-Hour Abortion Delay (Feb. 6, 2001)

More Christianity Today coverage of abortion is available in our Life Ethics area.

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