McDonnell Talks Super Tuesday
The Virginia governor discusses the kerfuffle over the ultrasound bill and why he’s supporting Mitt Romney.

Mitt Romney and Bob McDonnell in October 2011


GERAGHTY: Just to clarify, women would have the option of looking at it, but if they prefer to not look at it, they don’t have to look at it.

MCDONNELL: Absolutely.

GERAGHTY: So really, your opponents oppose choice.

MCDONNELL: Well . . . [chuckle] they oppose the choice of looking at an ultrasound, and they also oppose requiring doctors to give women all of the available medical information before making informed consent. That’s wrong. That doesn’t empower women.

GERAGHTY: Perhaps this is an aspersion you would rather not cast, but do you think opponents of this legislation might not want women to back out of a decision to have an abortion for financial reasons? That they may see it as a lost business opportunity?

MCDONNELL: I don’t think the objective of an abortion clinic is to try to talk women out of having the procedure. That obviously would not be positive for their bottom line. Doctors have an ethical duty to follow the practices and standards of care. I will say this just codifies what should be the prevailing practice anyway, giving people the ability to have all of the information to be able to give legally binding informed consent.

Sometimes we put the elements of informed consent in a statute as we do with abortion and about ten or twelve other medical procedures; sometimes we just leave it up to the normal standard of care such as for gall-bladder surgery or eye surgery. There are existing protocols for what kind of information you have to give.

It’s all about empowering the person before they say yes to the surgery, so that they know everything about it, the alternatives to the procedure, the recovery for the procedure, exactly what the procedure does, what the complications and risks might be. This is standard within the medical community. Giving women more information about the nature of the procedure, of the gestational age, of the fetal development. It empowers women with medical information, and that’s why I think it’s good policy. And that’s why half the states have similar policies.

GERAGHTY: The relentless focus on the ultrasound bill reminds me a bit of your gubernatorial campaign, when for a couple of weeks there, the attitude was, the only thing that mattered was your master’s thesis. I suppose any Republican goes into office knowing that the media will be hostile some days, but does the intensity of the coverage surprise you? Is it worse than you expected? Not as bad as you expected? Getting worse over time?

MCDONNELL: While we know the media has its documented bias to the left, for the most part, we’ve been doing things and engaging them in a way where we get generally reasonable treatment.

But the last couple of weeks is probably overall the worst batch of reporting I’ve seen in my 21 years up here, particularly in creating a false representation in the public’s eyes about what is happening in Richmond. For some to conclude that we’re only focusing on social issues is patently inaccurate.

I gave my State of the Commonwealth speech and outlined about 135 bills that I was advocating, none of which was on social issues. We’ve been commended for our leadership on economic development, jobs, higher ed, veterans, pension reform — all of these other issues that are really what people care about. When you get virtually no coverage for three or four weeks, and all of the coverage is on two or three bills, it tells you that there is a bias.

It doesn’t surprise me, but the length of time when the reporting has been out of whack with the reality of the legislative session is what surprises me. It’s been weeks.