- The Washington Times - Friday, February 24, 2012

Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell said Friday that legal and medical concerns led to his proposal earlier in the week to amend a bill he previously supported that could have required women to undergo an invasive ultrasound procedure before having an abortion.

“During the course of the discussion, after talking to lawyers and doctors on my own, we started to hear some concerns raised in the legislature,” he said at a forum with Maryland Democratic Gov. Martin O’Malley hosted by Politico. “I mean, normally a governor would review these hundreds and hundreds of bills when they get to your desk. You’re so busy advocating your agenda, you don’t read every legislator’s bill. But I was certainly supportive of that concept. And so once we realized exactly the medical and legal issues involved, I thought it was prudent to recommend to the General Assembly that they make a change. They’ve made the change.”

The new bill would still require women to undergo a transabdominal, “jelly-on-the-belly” ultrasound before having an abortion, and they would be given the option of viewing the image afterward. The Senate version was stricken from the calendar Friday at the request of its sponsor, Jill Holtzman Vogel, Fauquier Republican. The amended House version, patroned by Delegate Kathy J. Byron, Campbell Republican, has cleared that body and is pending in the Senate.

“I support the bill. I still support the bill,” Mr. McDonnell, a Republican, said. “We realized there was different kinds of ultrasounds, and so what I recommended [to] the General Assembly and they adopted the other day, is let’s make a requirement for the abdominal ultrasound. We found out from the medical community that in most cases that the abdominal ultrasound isn’t sufficient, that on their own they already do other kinds of ultrasounds, but I didn’t think it was proper to mandate invasive ultrasounds, so I said, let’s make those amendments. I also got legal advice from various people, including my attorney general, that these kinds of mandatory invasive requirements might run afoul of fourth amendment law. So, those were the reasons.”

Mr. McDonnell said the measure is all about providing women with proper information.

“Listen, I’m a pro-life governor,” he said. “I believe that the sanctity of life is critically important. What you believe about marriage and life and families and the rule of law and individual liberties is critically important to who we are as a people. So, we had a bill that came forward that mandated ultrasounds for the purpose of allowing a woman to have fully informed consent, legally, medically, prior to making a life-changing decision. Look, everybody on both sides of the debate [believes] that this is a critically important decision. So it was about information.”

Nevertheless, the proposal received national attention on cable news shows, derision from late-night comics, and intense grassroots lobbying in opposition to it from pro-choice advocates in Virginia. Mr. McDonnell said he found it “somewhat exasperating” that so much attention has been paid to such social issues during the session.

“If you looked at coverage about Maryland, you’d think that all they cared about is same-sex marriage and tax increases,” he said. “That’s what’s I read about. And If I was a citizen, that’s all I’d think the governor was doing. But you know what - in Virginia, 97 percent of the bills that have gotten through so far are on things that I’ve advocated — job creation, economic development, investments in transportation, higher education, K-12 reform, energy [plans], a veterans package to help our returning men and women from Iraq — that’s what I’m focused on.”

Still, Mr. McDonnell said he thought the amended ultrasound bill would pass.

Virginia will have a strong women’s ‘right-to-know’ bill to provide the information that’s necessary to make fully informed consent,” he said. “So I think it’s the right decision.”