NORFOLK-- The controversial issue of abortion has made its way on the airwaves in the Second Congressional District race.
In his commercial “Values,” Democrat Paul Hirschbiel goes on the attack against Republican incumbent Scott Rigell.
As part of its on-going “Ad Watch” campaign, 13News decided to analyze the ad.
It features Katrina Field of Norfolk. Field is a former legislative aide to a Democratic member of the Virginia General Assembly.
Field criticizes Rigell in the commercial, saying Rigell “spends his time in Washington working on an extreme agenda, trying to ban a woman’s right to choose."
13News looked at the basis for Field’s claim, Rigell’s support for House Resolution 374, the so-called “Personhood Bill.”
Field claims that Rigell wrote the legislation. In fact, it was written by Rep. Duncan Hunter of California. Rigell was one of 120 co-sponsors.
HR-374 does state its purpose is “to implement equal protection … for the right to life of each born and pre-born human person.” And, while the passage of such a bill could pave the way for future legislation that does directly lead to the outlawing of abortion, this bill in and of itself does not appear to have such power.
In fact, HR-374 goes on to state, “Nothing in this act shall be construed to require the prosecution of any woman for the death of her unborn child.
Hirschbiel's ad also claims, in citing the same bill, that Rigell wants to ban abortion “even in cases of rape or incest or to save the life of the mother.”
The non-partisan, Pulitzer Prize-winning Website Politifact.com, while never having studied this particular ad, did investigate an essentially identical claim about support for the Personhood Bill in a commercial from President Barack Obama that attacks Mitt Romney.
On July 24, Politifact concluded Obama had twisted Romney's position, and declared, "Support for the amendment does not necessarily equate to opposing abortion when pregnancy is due to rape or incest." Politifact rated that claim, "Pants on Fire."
Rigell has stated repeatedly he is “proudly pro-life.” However, we find nothing in this particular bill or in Rigell’s two-year congressional voting record to support the claim that he backs the idea of no abortions with no exceptions.
The ad concludes with Field saying, “Rigell even tried to make some forms of birth control illegal.”
It is true that Rigell did cite religious freedoms in objecting to President Obama’s decision to require employers to provide contraception, sterilization and abortion-inducing drugs to employees, calling it “an egregious violation of the First Amendment.” But, that was simply a floor speech and not a vote on any legislation.
Studying Rigell’s voting record, we found three examples of his voting to try to stop taxpayer funding for abortion and two other outright abortion bans in limited circumstances.
Old Dominion University Assistant Professor of Political Science and Geography Kimberly Karnes studied the "Values" ad and said, “From the get-go, there’s some questionable pieces to it."
Karnes said the ad isn’t untruthful, but it does stretch the truth.
We asked her to grade it as though it were a project from one of her college students.
"For factual information, I would give the grade C to C-minus,” she said. “There’s nothing that is a blatant lie, that you can say 'that’s blatantly false,' but this is quite a bit of exaggeration that’s going on. Just drawing out conclusions from a very basic bill, so I’d give it a C to C-minus."
Stylistically, Karnes gave the ad a B-minus, noting, “I think it's a bit disjointed. He went to work on economic issues and instead he’s focusing on social issues that are extreme."
As for a final grade, Karnes gave the ad a C.
Over the last few weeks, 13News has analyzed other political ads.
Regent University Government Dean Chuck Dunn gave a Tim Kaine ad a C.
Norfolk State University political science professor Carol Pretlow gave a George Allen ad a B-minus.
In both cases, the teachers complained about the lack of context in the ad to support the presentation of facts.
Next week, 13News will break down an ad from Rep. Scott Rigell.