Virginia Gov. Reverses Himself, Weakens Controversial Anti-Abortion Bill

Gov. Bob McDonnell changes his position on a bill condemned by Democrats and Black officials.

Posted: 02/23/2012 11:43 AM EST
Governor Bob Mcdowell,Republican Party, Virginia, National News, abortion

The governor of Virginia has reversed his full support for a controversial proposed law that would require women to have transvaginal ultrasounds before they would be allowed to get an abortion.

Gov. Bob McDonnell, who initially supported the legislation, asked the state legislature to amend the bill to exclude the requirement.

"Mandating an invasive procedure in order to give informed consent is not a proper role for the state," McDonnell said in a statement. "No person should be directed to undergo an invasive procedure by the state, without their consent, as a precondition to another medical procedure."

The bill quickly drew national attention and it became the center of widespread criticism from women’s groups, abortion rights activists and other progressive organizations who said that the legislation represented a draconian effort to restrict women from making decisions about their health.

The bill has been harshly criticized by Virginia’s Black legislators, most prominently Charniele L. Herring, the Democratic Whip in the Virginia General Assembly. In fact, Herring has herself received national attention for her outspoken opposition to the bill. She has referred to the legislation as “state-sponsored rape,” saying that it would have forced women to have an unwanted, invasive procedure for no medical reason.

McDonnell is widely considered to be a rising star in the Republican Party and a potential contender for the Republican vice-presidential nomination. And many politicians suggest that his changing position was a more a reflection of his desire to avoid being labeled as an opponent of women’s health concerns than a genuine change of heart.

The Republican-controlled General Assembly amended the bill in a way that would still require external ultrasounds, but not the invasive ultrasounds that involve insertion of a wand into the vagina.

But Herring said that the new version of the bill is still undesirable.

“This is a prime example why legislators should not walk into the doctor's office and dictate what should happen,” she said.

Former Gov. Timothy M. Kaine, a Democrat running for the United States Senate, said that the Republican-led legislature had reduced Virginia to being a national laughingstock.

“What's happening in Richmond right now is bad for Virginia women, it's bad for Virginia's image, and it's bad for Virginia's businesses,” Kaine said Wednesday in a conference call with reporters.

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(Photo: Courtesy bobmcdowell.com)

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