Virginia Governor Backing Away From Full Support For Ultrasound Bill

Virginia’s Republican Governor, who is frequently mentioned as a potential Vice-Presidential running mate, is backing away from his previous unequivocal support for the mandatory ultrasound bill currently pending in the state legislature:

RICHMOND — 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.

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.”

What’s happening, most likely, is that Virginia’s Republican leaders are talking behind the scenes about ways in which this bill could possibly be amended to take away some of the most controversial aspects that have come to light in the past week or so. That could mean adding in a provision that requires consent from the patient, or a ban on trans-vaginal ultrasounds being used. The other option is that they’re looking for a way to kill the bill completely and get this controversy behind them without completely annoying the social conservatives. In either case, the reaction from the public since this has come to light has made pretty clear that this would be a wildly unpopular move on the legislatures part, and McDonnell himself is smart enough to not want something like this hanging around his neck if and when he decides to seek higher office.

FILED UNDER: Gender Issues, Healthcare Policy, US Politics, , , , , , ,
Doug Mataconis
About Doug Mataconis
Doug Mataconis held a B.A. in Political Science from Rutgers University and J.D. from George Mason University School of Law. He joined the staff of OTB in May 2010 and contributed a staggering 16,483 posts before his retirement in January 2020. He passed far too young in July 2021.


  1. anjin-san says:

    Many of the bill’s supporters were apparently unaware of how invasive the procedure could be

    In other words, the message these idiots are sending is “we want to take control of women’s bodies away from the women and give it to the state, but we can’t be bothered to spend ten minutes doing our homework before we do it.”

  2. michael reynolds says:

    I think you’re being too harsh, Anjin. I mean, who knew that having a probe thrust into your vagina against your will would bother anyone?

  3. DRS says:

    I’m wondering if the medical community isn’t weighing in with legislators and the governor’s advisors. On the whole, regardless of doctors’ personal views on abortion, their professional organizations have been very leery of legislation that for any reason requires doctors to perform specific medical procedures on patients.

  4. Brummagem Joe says:

    The other option is that they’re looking for a way to kill the bill completely and get this controversy behind them without completely annoying the social conservatives.

    As predicted by me a few of days ago. The problem is it’s probably too late although I believe the legislature has postponed the vote a couple of times. This of course would leave Republicans in the senate who have already cast a vote in favor hanging out to dry. There’s already a lot of ranting on Republican blogs. Either way this is certain to be an issue at the next election when McDonnell’s name won’t be on the ballot but a lot of these Republican congressmen and senators will be. Allegedly McDonnell is angling for the VP’s spot on a Romney ticket. Given his previous support for this insane proposal I’m not sure how trying to sweep it under the carpet gives him a get out of jail free card….he’s still on the record as the guy who wanted to put a camera into women’s vaginas. And if he doesn’t get on the ticket there are still a lot of VA pro lifers with hurt feelings.

  5. Bleev K says:

    On top of being a disgusting idiot, McDonnell doesn’t even have balls.