Bob McDonnell on Virginia ultrasound law: Let's talk about the budget

Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell originally said he would sign into law a Virginia bill to require women to have an ultrasound before they have an abortion — but, now, he’s not so sure. He met with Virginia legislators and members of his staff to discuss the issue last night:

Legislators and governor’s staff met Tuesday night to hash out a compromise that would make the ultrasounds voluntary, but not mandatory, before an abortion, several people with knowledge of the meeting said Wednesday.

The meeting took place after the governor and legislators learned that the 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.

Have these reconsidering legislators been moved by the left’s argument that mandated ultrasounds amount to rape? Or by the presence of some protesters who, at a rally in Richmond on Monday, wore T-shirts that bore the sophisticated slogan, “Virginia is for lovers, not probes”? Surely not.

But Gov. McDonnell wouldn’t answer any questions about the meeting or the ultrasound law at a news conference today. “You know I’m concerned about?” he asked. “I’m concerned about the budget.”

The deflection was sound politics, a model for what the GOP could do in the race against Obama in November. No matter what Obama brings up, the GOP candidate could always retort, “You know what I’m concerned about? I’m concerned about the budget.”

But social issues come up again and again and again because they’re important and get to the heart of what kind of a society we want to be. It’s fine for politicians to delegate solutions to social ills to cultural crusaders and to not seek to solve every problem through legislation. It’s possible for McDonnell to oppose this law and yet be pro-life. But it’s not OK for politicians to be disingenuous about what they believe or about the facts of an issue.

While I understand why he didn’t, I wish McDonnell would have engaged: Not only could he set the record straight about what the law really mandates (it doesn’t mandate the invasive transvaginal procedure that liberals are supposedly so up in arms about!), but he could also take the opportunity to state a few facts about abortion. Abortion itself is an incredibly invasive procedure that leaves women to cope with severe physical and emotional consequences. McDonnell could state again that he wants women to have the full story one way or another — if not through this law, then by the efforts of sidewalk counselors and others — before they decide to go through with such a truly life-altering procedure.

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