Abortion Could Be the Deciding Factor in Virginia Governor’s Race

When Democrat Terry McAuliffe won the Virginia governor’s race in 2013, it was a hard-fought, nail-biter of a contest that came down to which candidate had the best ground game. At play on both sides of the aisle was the issue of abortion, with NARAL Pro-Choice Virginia and the Susan B. Anthony List both operating major “get out the vote” campaigns on behalf of their chosen nominee.

Because of term limits, McAuliffe will now leave his seat, and new candidates are vying for their parties’ nominations. And once again, where they stand on abortion could be a major factor — and their positions on the topic couldn’t be more varied.

The Virginia primary isn’t until June, but candidates are already pushing hard for endorsements. On the GOP side, the leading candidate is Ed Gillespie, a Republican strategist and former Republican National Committee Chair, who seemingly has all the D.C. and party stalwart connections to easily garner him the win.

Gillespie also has a tried-and-true conservative stance on abortion: Ban it all, and only let those who have been sexually assaulted or whose lives are in danger terminate a pregnancy. “I would like to see abortion be banned because I think it is a taking of an innocent human life,” Gillespie explained at a candidates’ forum, according to the Washington Post. “It is not the law of the land today.”

At one point, banning all elective abortion used to be considered extreme — even among the GOP – but now that’s somehow become a more “moderate” position for a party member.

At the same forum, rival Corey Stewart positioned himself as even more pro-life, refusing to allow abortion under any circumstance at all. “I am against abortion, period, no exceptions. I will not compromise on this issue,” he said, reiterating a January attack video against Gillespie where he criticized him for not supporting a total ban and even referred to him as “Abortion Ed.

In the race for the Democratic nominee, the two candidates aren’t completely on the same page when it comes to abortion, either.

Lt. Gov. Ralph Northam has been endorsed by NARAL Pro-Choice America. The organization views him as a staunch ally throughout McAuliffe’s term, as Republicans in the state legislature tried repeatedly to limit abortion and birth control access. Northam’s record was equally strong when he served in the legislature. “Women’s reproductive health and rights is on the cusp, and we want this to be a referendum on Trump and his agenda,” said Tarina Keene, executive director of NARAL Virginia.

Running against Northam is former Congressman Tom Perriello. While Perriello now claims to completely back abortion and birth control rights, his record was more mixed while he was in Congress.

Perriello was one of a handful of Democrats who voted in favor of the Stupak-Pitts Amendment that banned abortion coverage in Obamacare. “After derailing ACA negotiations in the House in the last weeks of 2009, the Stupak amendment wound up excluded from the Senate bill,” Mark Joseph Stern writes at Slate. “Perriello ultimately voted for this version of the ACA. But he only did so after he and a group of anti-abortion Democrats extracted a concession from Obama, who promised to issue an executive order ensuring that no federal money would fund abortion through the ACA.”

The Democratic primary gets even more complicated now that former presidential contender Bernie Sanders has given Perriello his endorsement. The bastion of the grassroots left has provided much needed support for the former Congressman and helped bump up his liberal credentials, but some local pundits note that much like Sanders himself, Perriello is drawing on a coalition that may not be the most progressive in order to advance.

This speaks to a basic tenet of the Perriello campaign: expanding the pool of primary voters to blunt Northam’s presumed organizational advantage, having been endorsed by such influential groups as the Virginia Education Association, the teachers union, and NARAL, a national abortion-rights group,” the Richmond Times Dispatch’s Jeff Schapiro writes.  “Sanders was clobbered by Clinton in the Virginia presidential primary, but carried several college towns — including Perriello’s home, Charlottesville — and mountainous western counties that could be split by natural-gas pipelines opposed by an unlikely coalition of liberal environmentalists and conservative property-rights advocates to which Perriello is reaching.”

Then again, Sanders also has argued that Democrats should concede to conservatives on issues like abortion rights and gun control in order to win more elections, making his backing of Perriello that much more understandable.

With a new Supreme Court justice and Republicans in full control of the federal government, abortion rights are literally just a state-by-state case away from being eliminated. The GOP has already turned the argument away from whether abortion should be a right or not, and instead focused on whether or not a rape survivor should be forced to give birth against her will.

Meanwhile, Democrats will be deciding whether abortion should be a top-tier campaign issue or a right that can be negotiated away to advance other parts of a progressive agenda. The candidates who win both party nominations will be a bellwether that will extend far into the 2018 midterms and beyond.

Photo credit: Gage Skidmore, via Wikimedia commons

72 comments

Telica R
Telica R4 months ago

Thanks for sharing.

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Janis K
Janis K4 months ago

Thanks for sharing.

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Carl R
Carl R4 months ago

Thanks

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Karen H
Karen H4 months ago

You're right, Freya. However, that canon fodder has to survive lack of any support or assistance from those who want to use them.

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Freya H
Freya H4 months ago

To those of you who accuse Republicanazis of not caring about children, in fact they do. We need those "unwanted" babies to fill all the for-profit prisons, and/or serve as cannon fodder for all the wars we are going to fight against anybody who doesn't properly bow and scrape before the Red White & Blue. See? The reich-wing does have a plan for the results of unwanted pregnancies.

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Karen Swenson
Karen Swenson4 months ago

@Dan Blossfeld See Dan, we can agree. You are right. Morals and values have changed and for the better. People are more compassionate, more willing to keep their noses where they belong---in their own business, instead of everybody elses business.

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Tom M
Tom M4 months ago

No one in the so-called Religious Right will ever convince me that forcing a raped 13 year old to carry a pregnancy to term is either moral or ethical. Period.

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Margie F
Margie FOURIE4 months ago

Thank you

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Karen Swenson
Karen Swenson4 months ago

@Ron G---We, have become more forgiving Ron -- it is YOU and your Ancient man made Bible who have NOT! Anyone who would force a 10 yr old, or a raped woman, or any woman to risk her life, and give birth to a child she DOES NOT WANT is a dictator, a believer in slavery, and believe woman have no right to decide what is best for her BODY, HER life and needs YOU to decide for her. Who in the HELL do you think you ARE. If you do not believe in a legal ABORTION procedure---NO ONE IS FORCING YOU TO HAVE ONE.

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Karen Swenson
Karen Swenson4 months ago

@ Kay B---I really do not understand what you are going on about?? A woman who wants new clothes, too tired after hearing baby crying all night, realizes her money is going for diapers and baby food?? Employment? Yes Kay, once these decisions are made, it is the woman who has to live with that decision, just as any decision anyone would make. It is NOT your decision to worry about. If you really want to protect the innocent then there are plenty of severely disabled, mentally handicapped and will be many more with forced birth on the horizon, you can protect and give a home to.. If you and people like Ron are so moral and religious, instead of pointing fingers, judging these women---- Adopt those children if you insist on sticking your nose in others business.. Or are you too tired, want too many new dresses and want to party all night, or have a job you need to support yourself to be bothered to do that. ?? There is NO excuse for people who want to force their values on others to not follow through on your meddling into their lives!

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