Abortion Rights Group in Va. Skips Gubernatorial Endorsement

By Michael D. Shear
Washington Post Staff Writer
Wednesday, August 17, 2005

RICHMOND, Aug. 16 -- The Virginia chapter of NARAL Pro-Choice America said Tuesday that it will not endorse any candidate in this fall's governor's race, citing a lack of support for abortion rights among the two leading candidates.

The group endorsed Democrats for lieutenant governor, attorney general and most delegate races but said Democratic Lt. Gov. Timothy M. Kaine failed to earn its backing for governor because of his support for some abortion restrictions.

The group condemned Republican gubernatorial candidate Jerry W. Kilgore as an "extremely anti-choice" candidate, and it charged that he would sign legislation to criminalize abortion and restrict access to contraceptives if given the chance.

"Tim Kaine . . . has said he would not sign such legislation, but he embraces many of the restrictions on a woman's right to choose that are opposed by NARAL," the group's statement said. "We cannot therefore offer any endorsement in this year's race for governor."

The statement went on to say that despite the group's concerns about Kaine's positions, "we see more hope for the women of Virginia in Kaine's candidacy."

Ann O'Hanlon, executive director of the abortion rights group and a former Washington Post reporter, said the group also decided not to endorse Sen. H. Russell Potts Jr. (R-Winchester), who is running for governor as an independent, because his recent support for abortion rights is more crucial in the state Senate, where he chairs the Education and Health Committee.

"We really want him to be right where he is," O'Hanlon said.

Kaine's failure to win the group's endorsement reflects his complex position on abortion.

Kaine, a practicing Catholic, said he has a religious opposition to abortion and has at times declared himself to be "pro-life." He also wants to ban the procedure that opponents call "partial birth" abortion and supports parental consent and notification laws.

But he also said he is a "pro-choice" candidate who does not want to criminalize women or doctors involved in abortions.

"My position on this issue is firm," Kaine said in a statement. "I support appropriate and reasonable checks on the right to abortion, including a ban on partial-birth abortion, so we can protect women's health and ensure this monumental decision is made with all the facts in hand."

O'Hanlon has been critical of Kaine's position. She said Tuesday that his willingness to accept government interference in abortion decisions is difficult for abortion rights advocates to accept.

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