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By W. Gardner Selby April 5, 2012

Donna Campbell says Jeff Wentworth was sole Republican to oppose 2011 sonogram mandate

In an email blast, a Republican challenger to state Sen. Jeff Wentworth, whose San Antonio-rooted district takes in some Travis County residents, says: "We can’t afford to have a liberal pro-choice Republican representing us any longer."

The email from Donna Campbell continues: "My opponent, Sen. Wentworth, was the only Republican to vote against the sonogram law requiring women to have a sonogram or listen to the fetal heartbeat 24 hours before receiving an abortion." The email also mentions Wentworth’s
past votes against requiring parental consent for abortions for underage girls and points out a 2001 award given to Wentworth by the Planned Parenthood Federation of America.

For this fact check, we’re isolating the claim closest to Wentworth’s recent record, that he was the only Republican to vote against the state’s 2011 measure requiring women to have a sonogram before an abortion.

We confirmed from news accounts that Wentworth was the only one of 19 Republican senators to oppose the proposal requiring a woman seeking an abortion to have a sonogram at least 24 hours before the procedure with the results made available to her.

As reported by the Austin American-Statesman in a Feb. 18, 2011, news article, the Senate’s 21-10 vote for a Senate version of the sonogram measure that was then sent to the House "was largely along partisan lines, with Democratic Sens. Eddie Lucio Jr. of Brownsville, Carlos Uresti of San Antonio and Judith Zaffirini of Laredo voting for the bill and Republican Sen. Jeff Wentworth of San Antonio opposing."

That story closes: "Wentworth, who represents parts of southern Travis County and all of Hays County, was the lone Republican opposing the bill. He said his office had received 356 calls against the bill and only 28 in support. ‘I am a hairy-legged male who will never be pregnant myself,’  he said. ‘I am voting for my district.’"

According to Senate records, the senators who voted against preliminary and final approval of the proposal in February 2011 consisted of nine Democrats and Wentworth.

Ultimately, a House version of the proposal, carried by Rep. Sid Miller, R-Stephenville, was signed into law by Gov. Rick Perry.

We wondered if any House Republicans voted against that.

According to record votes placed in the House Journal, Rep. Sarah Davis, R-Houston, consistently voted against it, as the House gave preliminary and final approval and later concurred with Senate amendments resulting in the version sent to Perry.

According to a March 4, 2011, Houston Chronicle/San Antonio Express-News blog post, Davis said she could not support the sonogram bill in light of her commitment to working against the expanding role of government and to protecting the doctor-patient relationship from government interference.

Also, according to votes recorded in the House journal, two other Republicans, Reps. Lanham Lyne of Wichita Falls and Rick Harcastle of Vernon, opposed the House’s May 5, 2011, move to concur with Senate amendments to the earlier House-approved legislation. That concurrence succeeded by 94-41.

In a telephone interview, Lyne told us he couldn’t recall precisely why he voted "no" in that instance. Jessica Lynch, a legislative aide to Hardcastle, told us by email that Hardcastle could not recall why he voted no on concurrence. "However," her email says, "he wanted to point out that he is a co-author of HB 15 (the sonogram proposal) and asks that you not construe his (later) vote to indicate he did not support the measure." Hardcastle became a sponsor of the legislation in February 2011.

Upshot: Wentworth was the only Republican senator to oppose the sonogram mandate and was among very few Republican legislators to do so.

Wentworth, elaborating on his position, mentioned constituent calls in an op-ed article posted online by the San Antonio Express-News on Feb. 24, 2011, further writing that he viewed the measure as an unwarranted intrusion into a woman's private life.

Wentworth also wrote that he personally prefers adoption to abortion. "But I cannot, nor should the government, attempt to impose my moral or religious convictions on the entire female population of Texas as a matter of state law," he wrote. "Once a woman, in concert with her family, her physician, and her clergyman has decided to terminate her pregnancy, I believe it is inappropriate and exceedingly intrusive in her private life to tell her by law what she must do in connection with that medical procedure. And I don't believe her state legislator should be on that decision-making committee."

Contacted about Campbell’s claim, Wentworth pointed out Davis’s opposition in the House. He called Campbell’s statement about his being alone among Republicans "nearly right."

Campbell spokesman Jon Oliver told us by email that Campbell was referring to the Senate, not the House. "It is only logical to infer that those who voluntarily sign up for Dr. Campbell's email on her website for state Senate do so with interest in that particular race. Dr. Campbell is running for the Texas Senate, and assumes her subscribers know that she is only talking about that legislative body. We wouldn't be speaking to any votes that took place in the House in any of our emails to supporters."

Our ruling

Wentworth was the sole Republican senator to vote against the sonogram measure. But a House Republican consistently opposed it and two others voted against going along with the final Senate-amended plan that passed into law.

We rate Campbell’s claim Mostly True.

Featured Fact-check

Our Sources

Austin American-Statesman, news article, "Texas Senate OKs measure requiring sonogram before abortion," updated Feb. 18, 2011

Houston Chronicle/San Antonio Express-News, news blog post by Joe Holley, "Sounding out the sonogram bill," March 4, 2011

Telephone interview, Jeff Wentworth, April 3, 2012

Texas House, Journal entries on votes on House Bill 15, March 3, 2011 (Record Vote 90) and March 7, 2011 (Record Vote 92) and May 5, 2011 (Record Vote 781)

Texas Senate, Journal entries of votes on Senate Bill 16, Feb. 17, 2011; entries of votes on House Bill 15, May 2, 2011 and May 3, 2011

Jeff Wentworth, op-ed article, "‘Sonogram bill' is example of more government intrusion," San Antonio Express-News, Feb. 24, 2011

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Donna Campbell says Jeff Wentworth was sole Republican to oppose 2011 sonogram mandate

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