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Warren Fiske
By Warren Fiske April 13, 2012

McDonnell say bill requiring ultrasounds before abortions passed with bipartisan support

Gov. Bob McDonnell spent the first few minutes of a recent interview on MSNBC’s "Morning Joe" discussing jobs and Virginia’s improving economy. Then, as often is the case with McDonnell these days, the subject switched to abortion.

Luke Russert, a member of the interview panel, noted that polls in swing states including Virginia are showing that President Barack Obama has forged ahead of Republican Mitt Romney in support by independent women voters. "How much do you feel the invasive ultrasound abortion bill in Virginia is responsible for this phenomenon?" Russert asked.

He was referring to legislation passed by the House of Delegates in February that would have required women to have a transvaginal ultrasound before getting an abortion in Virginia. Amid a national outcry, McDonnell convinced fellow Republicans to amend the bill to mandate solely a non-invasive, abdominal ultrasound before an abortion. When the measure passed the GOP-led General Assembly, the governor signed it into law.

McDonnell replied to Russert by predicting Romney will carry Virginia in November’s presidential election.

Host Joe Scarborough broke in. He said McDonnell’s amendment was a "good move." Then he added, "I just don’t think it’s going to help us with women votes. When my wife -- my conservative, pro-life wife who’s never voted for a Democratic president in her life -- goes, `What in the hell is going on in the Republican Party?’ you know we’re in trouble."

McDonnell noted that the ultrasound measure was the only abortion bill approved by the General Assembly this year. "I think there’s a majority of pro-life legislators, so this bill was supported by Republicans and Democrats."

We wondered if the ultrasound bill really did pass with bipartisan support. So we went to the voting records.

The amended measure requiring non-invasive ultrasounds passed the House, 61-35, on March 1. Republican voted 59-4 for the bill. Democrats voted 31-1 against it (Del. Joe Johnson, D-Washington, was the only "aye"). The chamber’s one independent -- Del. Lacey Putney of Bedford, who caucuses with the GOP -- supported the legislation.

The measure passed the Senate, 21-19, on Feb. 28. Republicans voted 19-1 for the bill. Democrats voted 18-2 against it.

Does that really qualify as bipartisan support?

Tucker Martin, McDonnell’s chief of communications, defended the governor’s claim. He noted the 21-19 tally in the Senate and said the bill would not have have survived were it not for the vote of one of the two Democrats who supported it -- Chuck Colgan of Prince William and Phil Puckett of Russell.

If there had been a tie vote in the Senate, the bill would have been approved because Lt. Gov. Bill Bolling, a Republican, supported it.

Our ruling

McDonnell said the bill requiring an ultrasound before an abortion was approved with bipartisan support. It’s true that the measure would not have passed the Senate without one of the two Democratic votes it received to complement near unanimous Republican support.

But we have to consider the context of the governor’s statement; it came in response to a question about whether the abortion bill is contributing to some dissatisfaction with the GOP among independent women voters. It’s a stretch to tell a national TV audience that the legislation had bipartisan backing when, in fact, 49 of 52 Democrats in the General Assembly voted against it.

The governor’s statement, while technically accurate, leaves a faulty impression. We rate it Half True.

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Our Sources

MSNBC, "Morning Joe," April 11, 2012.

Email interview with Tucker Martin, director of communications for Gov. Bob McDonnell, April 12, 2012.

Legislative Information System, House vote on HB 462, March 1, 2012.

Legislative Information System, Senate vote on HB 462, Feb. 28, 2012.

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McDonnell say bill requiring ultrasounds before abortions passed with bipartisan support

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