Friday, November 28th, 2014

Facts debatable? Truth-O-Meter says no

State Rep. Carol Alvarado holds a vaginal probe on the Texas House floor March 2.
State Rep. Carol Alvarado holds a vaginal probe on the Texas House floor March 2.

When Texas House members took up a proposal to require women seeking abortions to first get a sonogram, state Rep. Carol Alvarado was among opponents to join floor debate, telling a Republican sponsor during a March 2 exchange that sonograms at the 8th to 10th week of pregnancy have to be done with an intrusive transvaginal device--not with the external "jelly on the belly" method.

Most experts we reached agreed that to produce a clear image, a transvaginal sonogram is best, if not the only choice, up to about the seventh week of pregnancy. But between seven and 10 weeks, the other kind of sonogram may produce a viewable image, according to some doctors. We found Alvarado’s statement Mostly True.

Since the Texas legislative session opened in January, debate has delivered several checkable statements.

On Feb. 17, state Sen. Eddie Lucio, D-Brownsville, told colleagues while advocating a Senate version of the sonogram measure that he would "like to see the definition of abortion really be looked at. A miscarriage is considered an abortion, and I don’t think it should be considered an abortion because that’s a natural thing that unfortunately happens."

He was referring to medical terminology labeling miscarriages as "spontaneous abortions." Because he was speaking during debate about procedures related to elective abortions, we rated his statement Half True.

The same day, the proposal’s author, Sen. Dan Patrick, R-Houston, told the Senate that Texas has 80,000 abortions every year. We rated that True. Research showed that abortions in the state peaked at more than 100,000 in 1981.

On Jan. 25, Democratic state Sen. Leticia Van de Putte of San Antonio invoked the plight of elderly nuns when she spoke against GOP-sought legislation requiring Texans to show photo IDs to the polls. She said that in Indiana, which has a voter ID law, 10 retired nuns "were barred from voting in the 2008 Indiana Democratic primary. Some of them were in their 80s and 90s. ... These nuns were not able to (vote) because they did not have an ID."

Based on interviews and news accounts, we concluded that the elderly nuns were barred from casting a regular ballot because they lacked proper identification. But they were not prevented from voting in another way, such by provisional ballots — though their votes wouldn’t have counted unless the sisters took additional steps to meet state qualifications. Half True.

The  same day, Sen. Mario Gallegos, D-Houston, warned that a Republican-sought mandate requiring Texas voters to present photo IDs at the polls could leave nearly 100,000 drivers unable to cast ballots.
   
Sen. Mario Gallegos of Houston specified that 98,184 residents are legally driving without licenses that show their photos because their regular licenses were relinquished when they were arrested for driving while intoxicated. In those cases, non-photo temporary licenses were issued to be used by the motorists until their charges were adjudicated.

We rated his statement Half True because it incorrectly assumes everyone arrested for DWI during 2010 not only received a temporary license when arrested but wasis currently driving with such a license. When we contacted the Texas Department of Public Safety, officials did not pinpoint the number of current drivers with temporary permits. Also, we noted, affected individuals could get other state-issued photo IDs that would enable them to vote.

Footnote: We learned of Alvarado’s statement from a from-the-floor Postcards blog posted by the Austin American-Statesman. We picked up the others described above by listening on our own. But we count on readers to give us a nudge if they hear anything that makes them wonder: Could that be so?