Opponents of the bill — including three doctors — testified that Virginia's law doesn't apply to disabilities that supporters of the bill had cited.
"We are talking about fetuses without lungs, without brains, without vital organs compatible with life," said Dr. Wendy Klein. "We are talking about wanted pregnancies with tragic outcomes."
Alena Yarmosky of the abortion-rights advocate NARAL Pro-Choice Virginia, read from a letter written by a woman who had to terminate a pregnancy last January when she and her husband learned that what would have been their firstborn had severe spina bifida and no chance to survive after birth.
"I was an emotional wreck. I could not believe this was happening to us," the letter said. "I can't imagine any woman going through this and being told she had no options because she had no funding."
"I would have wanted to die rather than to allow my baby to suffer," the letter said.
Northam and Sen. Barbara Favola failed to sway a Republican and advance legislation to repeal the law requiring ultrasonic scans of a woman's abdomen before abortions. Last January and February, the bill triggered angry protests by women's groups and others on Capitol Square while late-night television comedians lampooned Virginia and particularly Republicans over the measure.
Northam said the General Assembly had achieved the ultimate intrusion into private lives by taking discretion over the scan out of the hands of physicians and patients.
"This isn't about informed consent. This is about political interference and government coercion," Klein said.
Victoria Cobb, president of the conservative Family Foundation, praised the new law for allowing women "to see their unborn child prior to making an irreversible life-altering decision."
While ultrasound exams were standard before the law, she contended "abortionists were hiding the images from women to prevent the possibility that women might change their mind and reduce profit."
"To say a doctor would withhold information to improve profit is truly insulting," Northam said, turning to look over his right shoulder and glare at Cobb, "and I would hope you would apologize."
Efforts to repeal abortion clinic building regulations adopted last year died on the same partisan vote. Sponsor Mark Herring, D-Loudoun, said the requirements do nothing to improve safety while making abortion less accessible and more expensive. Family Foundation spokesman Chris Freund, however, said that building inspections of 20 abortion clinics after the new regulations took effect found more than 100 violations.