By Tim Craig
Washington Post Staff Writer
Wednesday, August 9, 2006
RICHMOND, Aug. 8 -- A leading conservative antiabortion group has joined Democrat James Webb in criticizing Republican Sen. George Allen for opposing abortion while owning stock in the manufacturer of the morning-after pill.
Chris Freund, policy director for the Family Foundation in Richmond, said social conservatives should be troubled by Allen's investment in Barr Laboratories Inc., maker of the pill, Plan B.
"Given his pro-life record, I think pro-life Virginians would be very confused by this decision to invest in the only producer of the morning-after pill," Freund said. "I think the issue of the morning-after pill really goes to the heart of the abortion debate, and for a lot of pro-life Virginians, this is the issue of the day."
Plan B is an emergency contraceptive that is supposed to prevent pregnancy if taken within 72 hours of intercourse. Its availability is a subject of intense debate between abortion rights supporters and people who consider it a form of abortion. The Food and Drug Administration has resisted efforts to make the drug available without a prescription.
Webb, who supports abortion rights but opposes late-term abortions, issued a statement over the weekend saying his campaign is "troubled" that "Allen is profiting off a drug that many of his evangelical supporters consider a form of abortion."
"It seems hypocritical to oppose a woman's right to choose while investing in a drug that does just that," the statement said. "Allen should dump his Barr stock."
The dispute about the stock comes two weeks after another fight over stock holdings in the increasingly divisive Senate race.
Last month, Webb called on Allen to return $800,000 in oil industry contributions, which prompted the Allen campaign to note that Webb owns stock in Chevron and Exxon-Mobil. Dick Wadhams, Allen's campaign manager, called Webb a "flaming hypocrite."
In an interview Tuesday, Allen said that stock purchases shouldn't be an issue in the campaign and that he has no plans to sell his Barr holdings. He also urged voters to focus on his record instead of his investments.
"Look at the way I vote," said Allen, who opposes abortion except in cases of rape, incest and danger to the life of the mother and often scores a perfect rating from the National Right to Life Committee.
Allen bought the stock in January 2004, according to financial disclosure reports. His holdings are valued at $1,000 to $15,000.
Allen said he is proud to own the stock because, he said, Barr Laboratories -- which is based in New York and operates a plant in southern Virginia -- is vital to the state's economy and has been a leader in efforts to treat breast cancer. In 1996, when he was governor, Allen said, he helped lure the company to Bedford County, where it employs more than 300 people.
"I very much like them," Allen said after a campaign speech at a senior citizens home here. "It's a good company. I don't use their products, but it's a good company that works hard in the community."
The issue underscores the difficulty that Allen faces running for reelection in Virginia at the same time he is laying the groundwork for a possible presidential bid in 2008. In refusing to abandon a company with Virginia roots, he risks alienating himself from national social conservatives, whom he has been reaching out to and who are influential in GOP presidential primaries and caucuses.
Webb has tried to exploit Allen's presidential ambitions and his ties to conservatives. "What does he really stand for? It's hard to tell right now," said Kristian Denny Todd, Webb's spokeswoman. "He's a big right-winger when he is trying to appeal to the conservative base to gain access to their money so he can run for president. . . . When he's in Virginia stumping, it's very unclear."