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Intro: "Gov. Robert F. McDonnell is backing off his unconditional support for a bill requiring women to have an ultrasound before an abortion, focusing new attention on one of the most controversial pieces of legislation in Virginia's General Assembly this year."

After the massive protest and a spate of unfavorable media coverage, Gov. Robert F. McDonnell has backed off his unconditional support for a measure that would require women to undergo an ultrasound before having an abortion. (photo: Bob Brown/Richmond Times-Dispatch via AP)
After the massive protest and a spate of unfavorable media coverage, Gov. Robert F. McDonnell has backed off his unconditional support for a measure that would require women to undergo an ultrasound before having an abortion. (photo: Bob Brown/Richmond Times-Dispatch via AP)

Virginia Gov. Backs Off Support for Ultrasound Bill

By Anita Kumar, The Washington Post

23 February 12


ov. Robert F. McDonnell is backing off his unconditional support for a bill requiring women to have an ultrasound before an abortion, focusing new attention on one of the most controversial pieces of legislation in Virginia's General Assembly this year.

Until this weekend, McDonnell (R) and his aides had said the governor would sign the measure if it made it to his desk. McDonnell, who strongly opposes abortion, will no longer make that commitment.

But delegates and governor's staff were scheduled to meet Tuesday night to strike a compromise after learning that some ultrasounds could be more invasive than first thought, according to two officials who were aware of the meeting but not authorized to speak about it publicly. Many of the bill's supporters were apparently unaware of how invasive the procedure could be, one of the officials added.

The Virginia legislation has become part of the broader national debate over reproductive rights and has drawn attention to McDonnell, a rising star in his party and a possible vice presidential contender. The legislation has been the topic of cable news shows, was part of a "Saturday Night Live" sketch and drew protesters to Richmond on Monday.

McDonnell's office would say Tuesday only that the governor will "review" the bill if it is approved.

"Our position is: If the General Assembly passes this bill the governor will review it, in its final form, at that time," McDonnell spokesman Tucker Martin said in a statement. He declined to explain the change in approach, but Virginia's governors can sign, veto or amend legislation.

The House and Senate have approved their versions of the bill. On Tuesday, the House postponed a final vote on the legislation- as well as votes on other measures on guns and adoption - for the second day in a row.

"Something is happening,'' Jessica Honke, a lobbyist for Planned Parenthood Advocates of Virginia, said hopefully. "It's important for [the governor] to take a long, hard look before he actually does this."

In recent days, abortion supporters have emphasized that women in the earliest stages of pregnancy may require a probe instead of an external test.

About 1,200 men and women held a silent protest outside the state Capitol on Monday, wearing hand-decorated T-shirts that bore such messages as "Virginia is for lovers, not probes.''

Opponents of the measure expect to turn over petitions with 25,000 signatures on Wednesday and are planning a second rally on Thursday.

In the past week, the issue has been featured on left-leaning shows, including "The Rachel Maddow Show" and "PoliticsNation with Al Sharpton." And "The Daily Show with Jon Stewart" arrived in Richmond on Tuesday to film.

The legislation is being used against Republicans outside of the General Assembly. National and state Democrats have criticized U.S. Senate candidate George Allen for his anti-abortion stand and have derided McDonnell, who has hit the campaign trail for presidential hopeful Mitt Romney.

Republicans at the Capitol, however, remain optimistic that McDonnell will sign the measure.

"The governor is strongly pro-life, and I think he would hold consistent in his support for this bill," said Del. Ben L. Cline (R-Rockbridge), co-chairman of the Conservative Caucus.

Republicans, in control of the General Assembly since last month, have other abortion-related bills pending during the 60-day legislative session.

Bills ending state subsidies for low-income women to abort fetuses that have serious birth defects and giving rights to a fertilized egg at the moment of conception are working their way through the legislature.

Del. Lionell Spruill Sr. (D-Chesapeake) took to the House floor Tuesday to say: "I'm deeply disappointed in some of you. I can't believe you would disrespect women in this county, in this state."

The ultrasound legislation would require women to undergo a test to determine the gestation age of the fetus, hear the heartbeat and be given an opportunity to see the images.

A woman who refuses to look at the ultrasound would have to sign a statement, which along with a print of the image would become part of her medical file.

The bill also would require women who live within 100 miles of their abortion provider to wait at least 24 hours before having the procedure, except in emergencies. Those who live farther would have to wait two hours.

Supporters of the ultrasound measure say it would provide crucial medical information to women seeking abortions; opponents say it would subject women to unnecessary tests and invade their privacy.

It is unclear whether insurance companies would cover the procedure.

Democrats hope to alter the bill on Wednesday to make the ultrasound voluntary.

"There is no doubt that this bill . . . is fundamentally and seriously flawed," Del. Charniele Herring (Alexandria) told her colleagues. "It is time to end the shame that has been brought to Virginia and to this chamber by this extreme bill.''

The officials with knowledge of Tuesday night's Republican meeting said GOP leaders hope to introduce amendments on Wednesday, but it is unclear whether the rank and file would support them.

McDonnell, who signed legislation last year that imposed new regulations for abortion clinics, first said last month that he would sign the ultrasound bill. His position was reiterated by his press secretary, Jeff Caldwell.

Victoria Cobb, president of the conservative Family Foundation, which considers the ultrasound bill one of its top priorities, said Tuesday that she and her staff were trying to determine what they need to do to persuade the governor to sign the legislation.

"It is a change as far as I can tell," she said of McDonnell's shift.

See Also: Virginia Republicans look to amend ultrasound bill

See Also: Statement of Governor Bob McDonnell your social media marketing partner


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+19 # Capn Canard 2012-02-23 09:43
so Guv McDonnell has caved? Well, keep your eye on these "do as I say, not as I do", Republicans. I wager they didn't even bother to read their own bill, especially since it didn't effect them personally, why the f*#$ would they? They are the stereotype of conservative men: wealthy arrogant A$$HOLES.
+1 # ER444 2012-02-24 02:51
Gov. McDonnell didn't cave... he is playing the Mitt Romney game. After all, he is gunning for a spot on the ticket as Vice Presidential candidate. Now you see it, now you don't. The only thing that is missing here is the smoke. What a pack of clowns. The only thing hat frightens me is there just might be enough voting clowns in this screwed up country to put Romney/McDonnel l in the White House. I am getting shivers. God help us!!
+17 # Bill Clements 2012-02-23 11:09
If you caught Rachel Maddow last night, then you know that McDonnell has NOT said that he would veto this bill, only that he would "change it slightly." So, you will STILL be directed to undergo a medically unnecessary procedure by the state without your consent as a precondition to another medical procedure. In other words, the state will still force your doctor into doing medical procedures to you for political reasons! The only thing that will be eliminated is the transvaginal probe. There's still a mandatory ultrasound, there's still a mandatory 24 hour waiting period because the woman cannot be trusted to making a decision without the government intervening and forcing a totally medically unnecessary day-long wait designed specifically to inconvenience and maybe shame you.

And this guy is a serious contender, apparently, for the GOP vice presidency? It's not bad enough that you could end up with a Romney, a Gingrich, or a Santorum for President; we have to imagine one of these clowns picking THIS idiot for the V.P. slot?
+6 # Richard Raznikov 2012-02-23 11:16
These people are not very bright.
+5 # Bill Clements 2012-02-23 11:38
I enjoyed reading your blog entry on this issue. Spot on as they say.... and with just the right amount of humor.
+12 # Robert B 2012-02-23 11:38
See what happens when you elect these people? They talk a lot of freedom on the campaign trail, then try to establish a police state after the election. Republicans do this every time in every state. Now it's reached the point where Rick Santorum is talking about establishing a police state BEFORE the election. He's nuts but he's honest. These other guys are just nuts.
+11 # Bill Clements 2012-02-23 11:53
The same holds true for Republicans on the Supreme Court. Thomas, Alito, Roberts. And Democrats involved in the confirmation process have to be held accountable as well. They're not stupid; they knew these bastards were lying through their teeth, but they went ahead and confirmed them anyway. Why?
+5 # Regina 2012-02-23 12:39
Ya mean the guv doesn't want to be the rapist-in-chief ??? How gentlemanly of him.
+4 # LeeBlack 2012-02-23 13:28
I think these religious right politicians are so surrounded in a circle of people who think as they do and are surprised that there are a majority of people who don't have the same views.
+4 # Willman 2012-02-23 18:58
I thought the repugnacious ones were against big government or govt. intrusion on their lives.

Prolly only when it comes to god & guns and womens place in their society.and whatever else they deem worthy of a prime political moment.
+2 # cvahr2 2012-02-24 02:07
I agree Willman. How can the public continue to be so damned blind to (or at least unconcerned with) the blatant hypocrisy that is the Republican party? Repugs do a lot of yammering re: having distain for “big” government and a government that intrudes into our private lives…but government intrusion doesn't get much invasive or personal than an unnecessary transvaginal ultrasound! It is unbelievable to me that this even has a chance at becoming a law…although if the Tea Party can exist I guess anything is possible no matter how absurd, inane or hypocritical it may be.

Virginia’s new state motto: A man's home is his castle but a woman's uterus, and now vagina, are public property.
0 # Lindy81 2012-02-24 21:48
nothing chills like the real possibility of a lawsuit--the GOPers who claim to be so concerned about government control are bunch of liars and hypocrites.

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