Updated: Incumbent state Sen. Thom Goolsby’s Democratic opponent in the general election, Deb Butler, has fired a broadside at the Republican incumbent with a visually frank TV ad. As her campaign says, it may be the first appearance of a transvaginal ultrasound wand in a political ad ever.
Goolsby supported the bill that required women receive ultrasound examinations prior to getting an abortion. The transvaginal wand is one method of conducting an ultrasound exam, and it is controversial for its intrusiveness.
The new law doesn't specify which kind of ultrasound method must be done; only that it be conducted four hours prior to an abortion, and that the image be described to the woman. The trans-vaginal method is typically used in early-stage pregnancy. Last year, Virginia legislators tried to require the wand in a similar bill, but that language was removed.
Butler, who is a lawyer, told Dome on Wednesday that she has researched the medical issues and learned the wand could be used in a number of circumstances. The main issue is, she said, "I don't think the legislature should be part of that conversation between a woman and her doctor."
In her ad, Butler shows one of the devices and says, “Few would dare show you this, but this is Thom Goolsby’s contribution to women’s health.”
“He promised us his first priority would be jobs, but instead he’s following us into the doctor’s office,” adds Butler.
Butler, in a news release, says as a cervical cancer survivor she also criticizes Goolsby, a Wilmington lawyer, for voting to defund Planned Parenthood’s women’s health programs, which include cancer screenings and do not include abortions.
Goolsby, reached by phone Wednesday, read a prepared statement in response: “Never forget, she’s Occupy Wilmington’s lawyer. Her economic plans are so radical and devastating to our economy that she’s trying to shift attention away from this fact. I’ll continue to focus on jobs and the econony.”
The General Assembly passed the bill along party lines last year and then overrode the governor's veto. However, the law is on hold because it has been challenged in court over the requirement that the ultrasound image be described in detail.
Paige Johnson, spokeswoman for Planned Parenthood of Central N.C., said, "Last year's legislative session was the worst on record for women in North Carolina. I applaud Deb Butler for holding her opponent accountable for voting against women and women's health 100% of the time."
Asked for her response to the ad, Tami Fitzgerald, executive director of the N.C. Values Coalition, which campaigned for the new law, issued this statement:
"If ever there was a campaign ad that deserved a “fact check,” this is it! Deb Butler’s ad about transvaginal ultrasounds is false in two respects: (1) Ultrasounds have been required before an abortion since 1994 in North Carolina under administrative rules adopted by the administration of Governor Jim Hunt, who was in fact a supporter of abortion rights. (2) While the ultrasound has been required in all abortions since 1994, the bill that Thom Goolsby voted for requires that a pregnant woman seeking an abortion be provided more information, including the opportunity to view her child on the ultrasound that is already required. I find it ironic that a Democrat candidate would attack a Republican Senator on the basis of rules adopted under the administration of Democrat Governor Jim Hunt and Rufus Edmisten."