WASHINGTON -- Alabama Gov. Robert Bentley (R) said Sunday morning that he has just learned about the transvaginal ultrasound bill pending in the state legislature and has not studied it.
The Alabama Senate is slated to start debating the controversial legislation as early as Tuesday after the bill passed the health committee last week. The bill -- similar to one just amended in the Virginia legislature -- requires women to undergo an ultrasound prior to receiving an abortion. It says either an external or transvaginal ultrasound would need to be performed, and that women would not have a decision as to which procedure would be used. Transvaginal ultrasounds are needed to detect an embryo in the earliest weeks of pregnancy.
While the issue has received national publicity due to the Virginia ultrasound bill, Bentley said he did not know about the Alabama bill.
"I just read about it this morning," Bentley told The Huffington Post after a meeting of the National Governors Association Health and Human Services Committee in Washington on Sunday.
He added that he has not studied the legislation or the issue and was not prepared to take a position on the bill.
"I'm not ready to make a comment at this time," Bentley said.
The Alabama bill is similar in scope to the original text of the Virginia bill, including the transvaginal requirement. The Montgomery Advertiser reports that a doctor who does not administer an ultrasound prior to an abortion could face up to 10 years in prison and a $15,000 fine, along with civil liability. The proposal includes allowing the mother, the father of a fetus and the grandparents to sue in the event an ultrasound is not done before an abortion.
The bill's sponsor, state Sen. Clay Scofield (R-Cullman), explained the bill to the Advertiser.
Scofield said Thursday that he believed the legislation would reduce the number of abortions in the state.
"What this is doing is allowing the mother as much information as possible before she makes probably the most difficult decision of her life," Scofield said.
The controversial Virginia bill passed the legislature last week, causing a public relations backlash for Republican sponsors. Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell (R) worked with legislators to revise the bill, and it now requires women to receive an external, transabdominal ultrasound rather than a more invasive transvaginal ultrasound. McDonnell told a forum in Washington on Friday that he did not know the transvaginal requirement was in the bill. The Virginia bill came at the same time that the state defeated a personhood bill in a surprise vote.
The Virginia bill also caused state Del. David Albo (R-Fairfax Station) to take to the House floor Friday, saying that the debate over the bill and a Democratic lawmaker's appearance on the "Rachel Maddow Show" regarding the bill had caused his wife to not have sex with him last week.