RICHMOND — It appears that women’s issues are likely to factor into the Virginia gubernatorial contest, with opposing sides of the abortion debate jumping into the race early.
The Susan B. Anthony List announced an initial commitment of $1.5 million Thursday to likely GOP nominee Ken Cuccinelli II, calling the contest “a top priority” for the group. In endorsing the attorney general, President Marjorie Dannenfelser cited his record of “fighting exploitation of the most vulnerable” as “an extension of who he is.”
“We knew where Planned Parenthood would be next and how they would try to roll out a campaign against Ken,” said Dannenfelser, whose group is opposed to abortion. “We’re putting an end to the lack of truth and civility in campaigns about what the candidate’s positions really are.”
Last fall, Cuccinelli weighed in on the Virginia Board of Health’s decision to impose strict, hospital-style building standards on existing abortion clinics, reversing an earlier decision after the attorney general warned the board that such facilities could be liable for legal fees if they were sued later.
Democrats said the announcement confirms that a Cuccinelli administration would be dangerous for Virginia women.
“It’s why Ken Cuccinelli is so attractive to a group like this,” Del. Jennifer L. McClellan (D-Richmond) said. “If Ken Cuccinelli winds up in the governor’s mansion, Virginia families and women will pay the price. Women in Virginia got a clear signal last year that if they’re not vigilant, they could see decades of progress rolled back.”
Last month, Planned Parenthood Action Fund and Planned Parenthood Virginia PAC launched the Web site Keep Ken Out in opposition to Cuccinelli’s campaign, saying, “The future of Virginia women’s health hangs in the balance, that’s why we’re going to make sure voters know exactly how out-of-touch he is, and why we need to keep Ken out of the governor’s office.”
The site is funded by Planned Parenthood Virginia PAC and authorized by Terry McAuliffe for Governor. Dannenfelser said Thursday that the Susan B. Anthony List contribution is not in response to the anti-Cuccinelli Web site.
McClellan said Thursday that she does not think Democrats are being hypocritical in their concern over the Susan B. Anthony List contribution.
“Take a look at the true mission of each of the groups supporting candidates,” McClellan said. “Conservatives want to paint Planned Parenthood as just an abortion provider, but they’re not. They provide different health-care services for women, most of which are preventative. The SBA List’s mission is to ban abortion in all cases.”
Although antiabortion groups have traditionally supported conservative candidates in the state, the Susan B. Anthony List’s financial commitment is significant, said Bob Holsworth, a former Virginia Commonwealth University political science professor.
“Rarely have they been able to muster the kind of money that’s being promised this year,” Holsworth said of such groups, which he said tend to be focused on organization and turnout efforts. “That’s very significant.”