Democrat Terry McAuliffe supports most Virginia laws that prohibit third-trimester abortions except to protect the life or health of the mother. But he opposes further restrictions and says he supports a repeal of mandatory ultrasounds before abortions.
In a state considered one of the most antiabortion in the nation in terms of state laws restricting the practice, the issue has often been front and center as national antiabortion and abortion rights groups
spend heavily on harsh ads.
On the campaign trail, Cuccinelli hasn’t talked as much about abortion as has McAuliffe, who has argued repeatedly that the issue is emblematic of what he characterizes as Cuccinelli’s extremism. Cuccinelli, in turn, has accused McAuliffe of distorting his views, and he has called McAuliffe the extremist for his abortion-rights stance.
The differences between the candidates on abortion and reproductive health-care issues appear to be resonating, particularly among women, who make up more than half of registered voters.
Polls are showing a wide gender gap in McAuliffe’s favor. In a Washington Post poll taken last month, for example, female voters preferred McAuliffe by a 24-point margin.
This has led abortion rights groups to conclude that if McAuliffe wins, it will be because of female voters.
“I think he will owe his victory to the women of Virginia,” said Tarina Keene, executive director of NARAL Pro-Choice Virginia, which has taken part in a “Stop Ken” campaign. “Women who want to own their own bodies. Who want to be able to make their own reproductive health-care decisions. They certainly want him to stand strong.”
Antiabortion groups say that’s exactly what they fear.
“If we hold a pro-life majority in the House of Delegates and perhaps gain more pro-life seats in the Senate, I see almost a stalemate of activity,” said Olivia Gans Turner, president of the Virginia Society for Human Life, whose political-action committee has endorsed Cuccinelli. “Terry McAuliffe would put up a roadblock for passage of pro-life bills. It means we’d lose four years providing protection to the most innocent among us.”
A number of relatively new laws in the state have helped reignite the discord over abortion and reproductive rights.
Last year, Virginia started requiring women seeking abortions to have ultrasounds.
This year, the state enacted a provision that bars insurers operating under the new health-care law from offering abortion coverage.
And the Virginia Board of Health has imposed a new building code on the state’s abortion clinics, including stricter standards for such things as hallway widths and the number of parking spaces. Some providers say costly renovations, mandated in the name of patient health and safety, will put them out of business. When the board decided to grandfather in existing clinics, Cuccinelli said that the board had exceeded its authority and that the attorney general’s office would not defend board members if any lawsuits. The board reversed its decision.