Gov. McDonnell balks at contentious abortion bill

February 22, 2012 - 4:55 PM

RICHMOND, Va. (AP) — Republican Gov. Bob McDonnell — facing outrage from women, national ridicule from television comedians and appeals from GOP moderates — came out Wednesday against a bill that would require transvaginal ultrasounds for women seeking abortions.

McDonnell, a social conservative who has been mentioned as a possible vice-presidential candidate, appealed Wednesday for amendments to the bitterly contested Republican bill, to make the ultrasound examination optional for women seeking abortions. In the procedure, a wand-like device is inserted and used to send out sound waves.

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

McDonnell released his statement as the House of Delegates' Republican majority quarreled over how to handle the legislation minutes before it was to be debated. House Republicans twice recessed Wednesday's session to regroup, given the shift by McDonnell.

The bill had already won Senate passage. Opponents say it amounts to the state violating a woman's privacy. Supporters say it is medically prudent to determine fetal gestational age and, perhaps, discourage abortions.

On Monday, hundreds of women locked arms and stood mute outside the Virginia State Capitol to protest the measure and other anti-abortion legislation coursing through the General Assembly.

Republicans strengthened their hold on Virginia government when they recently took control of the state Senate, in addition to the state House and Governor's Mansion. Virginia is expected to be a battleground in the coming presidential election, four years after Democrat Barack Obama captured a state that traditionally backs Republicans in presidential contests.