Virginia Governor Bob McDonnell is now in full retreat mode on that bill mandating that women seeking an abortion in the state must get a trans-vaginal ultrasound (colloquially known as “state rape”) beforehand.

We saw hints of this earlier today from a spokesman. But McDonnell has now put out his own statement, asking for amendments to the bill that would modify the ultrasound from trans-vaginal to trans-abdominal:

“On Wednesday, McDonnell, who had previously said he would approve the bill, put out a statement reiterating his support for pro-life policies and informed consent laws, but essentially telling the legislature to back off.

“Over the past days I have discussed the specific language of the proposed legislation with other governors, physicians, attorneys, legislators, advocacy groups, and citizens,” McDonnell said. “It is apparent that several amendments to the proposed legislation are needed to address various medical and legal issues which have arisen. It is clear that in the majority of cases, a routine external, transabdominal ultrasound is sufficient to meet the bills stated purpose, that is, to determine gestational age.”

“Thus,” he continued, “having looked at the current proposal, I believe there is no need to direct by statute that further invasive ultrasound procedures be done. Mandating an invasive procedure in order to give informed consent is not a proper role for the state. No person should be directed to undergo an invasive procedure by the state, without their consent, as a precondition to another medical procedure.”

Recall that McDonnell previously endorsed this same bill. Somehow a “trans-vaginal ultrasound” wasn’t initially seen as an invasive procedure?

The executive director for NARAL Pro-Choice Virginia points out to TPM that this remains a mandatory ultrasound as a condition for getting an abortion, regardless of where the camera is stuck. In fact, seven other states mandate an ultrasound before an abortion: Alabama, Arizona, Florida, Kansas, Louisiana, Mississippi and Texas. In Texas, the provider must then show the woman the image of the fetus before it gets aborted. In the other six states the provider must offer an opportunity to view the image. The Guttmacher Institute cites a couple reasons for this:

Since routine ultrasound is not considered medically necessary as a component of first-trimester abortion, the requirements appear to be a veiled attempt to personify the fetus and dissuade a woman from obtaining an abortion. Moreover, an ultrasound can add significantly to the cost of the procedure.

And guess who’s paying for that? The woman!

Protesters should and no doubt will continue to fight this forced medical procedure as a condition of accessing a legal medical procedure. And with McDonnell and Virginia conservatives on the run, perhaps something better will come of that protest. Might want to peek in on the other seven states, too.