The Real Extremist
On women’s issues, Terry McAuliffe has staked out some positions far outside the mainstream.

Terry McAuliffe


Katrina Trinko

The Democrats are trotting out their favorite smear tactic against Virginia gubernatorial candidate Ken Cuccinelli: attacking him as anti-woman because he’s a social conservative.

In a series of recent ads, the campaign of Democratic gubernatorial candidate Terry McAuliffe gleefully paints Cuccinelli as an extremist who secretly thinks women should be kept barefoot and pregnant in the kitchen.

The common theme in the ads is that Cuccinelli wants to “interfere” with women’s choices. (Appreciate that even a liberal like McAuliffe is stuck using conservative language about big government stretching into people’s personal lives. Progressive triumph of language, this is not.) “It’s Ken Cuccinelli we should worry about,” intones a male (!) narrator ominously, adding that he is “pursuing an extreme agenda, interfering in our personal lives, and waging war on abortion even in cases of rape and incest.”

In another spot, Holly Purvitz, a calm, gray-haired OB-GYN of 30 years, fixes her hazel eyes worriedly on the camera and says, “I’m particularly offended by Ken Cuccinnelli. Cucinnelli wants to make all abortion illegal, even in cases of rape and incest. Even to protect a woman’s health,” Purvitz says. “I want a governor who’s focused on schools and creating jobs. . . . Who’s Ken Cucinnelli to interfere in the lives of women across Virginia?”

But who’s the real extremist on abortion? McAuliffe has been happy enough to attack Cuccinelli’s position, but he’s been evasive about his own views. In March, Susan B. Anthony List president Marjorie Dannenfelser in a prepared statement accused McAuliffe of “support[ing] a platform of abortion on-demand at any time, for any reason, paid for by Virginia taxpayers. That means he supports a platform of sex-selective abortion, late-term abortion, partial-birth abortion, and abortions on teenage girls without parental consent — all paid for by Virginia tax payers.” The Washington Post reported that, when it reached out to McAuliffe’s campaign for comment, “McAuliffe spokesman Josh Schwerin declined to say whether Dannenfelser had accurately represented McAuliffe’s position on abortion.”

On his own campaign website, McAuliffe obliquely says, “I strongly believe that women should be able to make their own healthcare decisions without interference from Washington or Richmond.” But in August he also sent out a fundraising letter penned by Texas state senator Wendy Davis, famous for her filibuster in June of a state law that banned abortions after 20 weeks and increased the regulation of Texas abortion clinics. And Purvitz’s willingness to star in a spot for McAuliffe is also telling: She has donated to Planned Parenthood and EMILY’s List (a Democratic group that promotes pro-choice female candidates) in the past, and serves on the Government Affairs Committee of the American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, an organization that “strongly oppose[d]” the Texas abortion law Davis fought.

Add this all up and McAuliffe’s actions, if not his words, indicate he’s comfortable with the legality of late-term abortions. And that’s an extremist position. According to a Huffington Post/YouGov poll in July, 59 percent of Americans back banning abortions after 20 weeks, while only 30 percent support allowing them. In August, a Quinnipiac poll asked respondents whether they would rather have abortions be legal without restriction up to 24 weeks or up to 20 weeks; a whopping 60 percent chose 20 weeks.

Furthermore, McAuliffe opposed additional regulations of Virginia abortion clinics while Cuccinelli supported them. “Cuccinelli bullied the Board of Health to pass medically unnecessary regulations intended to close women’s health clinics, which provide numerous services,” McAuliffe’s website scolded. Testifying before the Virginia Board of Health in April, Purvitz argued against new regulations, saying, “You can’t regulate some businesses out of existence because you don’t agree with them and call it fair and reasonable.” “Bullied” is a strange word to use in a post-Gosnell era, when it’s become clear that insufficient regulation of abortion clinics has enabled medical malfeasance affecting women and, in some cases, causing their deaths.