The hysteria over the news that the Virginia General Assembly is on the verge of passing a law requiring women seeking an abortion to undergo an ultrasound and to have an opportunity to see the images went national over the weekend.
Opponents of the bill have been complaining that to find and monitor the heartbeat as the law requires, the ultrasound may involve a "transvaginal" probe (rather than an external abdominal procedure) because in early weeks the child is still so small. This, say opponents, such as some protesters at the Virginia Capitol who were quoted in a lengthy Associated Press story over the weekend, is "state-mandated rape."
The AP story was widely picked up across the country, Saturday Night Live mentioned the Virginia ultrasound and "personhood" bills in a "Really?" skit mocking conservative positions on abortion and the Obama administration's birth control mandate, and today The New York Times has a long, Section A piece on the ultrasound controversy. Now that the Times has weighed in, we can expect the national networks to pick up on it today or tomorrow.
The pressure is now on Gov. Bob McDonnell to amend and tone down the ultrasound bill should it arrive on his desk. As The New York Times reporter assured readers, "The bill has drawn intense public attention, and a spokesman struck a more muted tone over the weekend, a shift that opponents said could mean that the governor might amend it before signing it." It added that political analysts say that "he is seen as a possible contender for vice president on the Republican ticket and could be calculating how the bill will be perceived by a national audience."
We've argued before that not signing this bill-and other conservative measures-is exactly the wrong approach if the governor wishes to maintain his viability as a potential candidate for vice president. If he wants serious conservatives to continue supporting him, they should reasonably expect his continued support on the issues that matter most to them.
And as the backlash over the Obama administration's birth control mandate and the close attention now given to Rick Santorum's pro-life and pro-family positions show, social issues are not something that a potential national candidate can hope to duck in the coming months.
The Virginia House may well vote today on the ultrasound bill and is very likely to pass it. If Gov. McDonnell really is pro-life, there's no point in trying to hide that now.