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State Sen. Siobhan Dunnavant, R- Henrico is denouncing her challenger, Democrat Debra Rodman, as a "liberal activist" who has shown a "lack of judgement" during her two years in the House of Delegates.
Dunnavant made the charges in a Sept. 30 mailer that criticizes Rodman on six issues. One particularly caught our attention. She said Rodman "opposes adoption as an alternative to abortion in unplanned pregnancies." We fact-checked her statement.
Dunnavant’s mailer cites an unsuccessful 2018 bill Rodman co-sponsored that would have changed state mandates for family life education in public schools. It would have abolished what many Democrats said were biased standards calling for "teaching the social, psychological and health gains to be realized by teenagers’ abstaining from sexual activity before marriage."
The bill also would have removed the requirement to teach "the benefits of adoption as a positive choice in the event of an unwanted pregnancy."
In place of the mandates was a requirement that students get teaching "that is medically accurate."
The bill died in a partisan 12-10 vote in the House Education Committee on Feb. 5, 2018. Rodman voted in the minority with Democrats for the measure.
Marshall Moreau, Dunnavant’s campaign manager, says Rodman’s support of the bill justifies the mailer claim. "The only inference to be drawn is that Rodman is opposed to adoption as an alternative to abortion in the event of unplanned pregnancies," he wrote in an email.
Dunnavant saidin the email, "For Delegate Rodman to say she doesn't oppose adoption but doesn’t want to teach about it, is like saying ‘I want you to get out of the burning building but I’m not going to tell you where the fire escape is.’"
The bill Rodman backed was silent about adoption. Rodman and other Democrats say the bill wouldn’t have barred instruction about adoption; it would have required that if taught, it be in a neutral, factual way when discussing pregnancy,
Rodman says her position has been contorted by Dunnavant. "I believe in a woman’s right to choose," Rodman said in an email. "Adoption is a wonderful choice women can and should make if it’s right for them. Politicians should not interfere in this personal choice."
Dunnavant says Rodman "opposes adoption as an alternative to abortion in event of unplanned pregnancies."
She cites Rodman’s support of a bill that would have changed state mandates for family life courses in schools to ensure what Democrats said would be neutral and scientific teaching. It wouldn’t have ended instruction about adoption; it would have erased a requirement for teaching its "benefits" as a "positive choice in the event of an unwanted pregnancy."
Dunnavant wrenches that position on teaching to the sensational claim that Rodman supports abortion over adoption. Rodman says she backs choice on adoption and abortion. Dunnavant’s statement goes well beyond that, and she fails to credibly back it up.
We rate Dunnavant’s statement False.
Correction: An earlier version of this fact check gave the wrong date the family life education bill died in the House Education Committee.
Siobhan Dunnavant, campaign mailer, Sept., 30, 2019.
Legislative Information Service, HB159, 2018 session.
House of Delegates, Education Committee meeting, Feb. 5, 2018 (9:58 a.m. mark on tape).
Email from Marshall Moreau, Dunnavant campaign manager, Oct. 4, 2019.
Email from Molly Banta, Rodman campaign manager, Oct. 4, 2019.
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