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One Virginia candidate shouts abortion; the other whispers life

In the governor’s race, Democrat Terry McAuliffe hypes the issue while Republican Glenn Youngkin tones it down


Virginia gubernatorial candidates Terry McAuliffe (left) and Glenn Youngkin Associated Press/Youngkin photo by Steve Helber/McAuliffe photo by Daniel Lin/Daily News-Record

One Virginia candidate shouts abortion; the other whispers life

Virginian Paul Perrone has only two bumper stickers on his family cars. They both say, “Infanticide is evil.”

The slogan, he explained, is a reminder of Gov. Ralph Northam’s words on the radio in 2019. When an interviewer asked him about abortions up to the moment of birth, Northam responded with a hypothetical about a child with “severe deformities” or who is unlikely to survive. “If a mother is in labor, I can tell you exactly what would happen,” Northam said. “The infant would be delivered. The infant would be kept comfortable. The infant would be resuscitated if that’s what the mother and the family desired and then a discussion would ensue between the physicians and the mother.”

Perrone heard the clip while listening to a local Christian radio station. The Democratic governor’s implied approval of infanticide shocked him. “There was a big public outcry for a while, and it fizzled out,” Perrone remembered. But it stuck with him.

Two years later, it’s on his mind as Virginia approaches elections on Tuesday. The two gubernatorial candidates have taken different approaches to the abortion debate: While Republican Glenn Youngkin has shifted focus away from his pro-life stance, Democrat Terry McAuliffe has tried to use the national furor surrounding the issue to galvanize his base. For voters like Perrone, McAuliffe’s connection to Northam’s radical pro-abortion agenda is enough to encourage a vote for Youngkin, even though he doesn’t take the strong pro-life stance they want.

McAuliffe has expressed support for the late-term abortion bill that Northam defended in that 2019 radio clip. Perrone cited abortion as the main reason he, his wife, and his daughter cast their early votes on Oct. 21 for Youngkin and the rest of the Republican ticket: “It is the most important issue to us.”

But Perrone wishes Youngkin were more vocal on the issue. A couple of weeks before casting his vote, he saw a McAuliffe ad that featured a secretly recorded clip of Youngkin saying he could not talk about his pro-life policy plans on the campaign trail because it would alienate independent voters.

“This frustrates me because it makes it appear that pro-lifers should be embarrassed about our stand,” Perrone said.

McAuliffe’s ads slamming Youngkin’s pro-life stance were among his most expensive, according to CNBC. Virginia Society for Human Life President Olivia Gans Turner said McAuliffe’s focus on the issue shows that he thinks abortion is a primary concern of his voter base. Polls in recent weeks suggest the dramatic pro-abortion reaction to the Texas heartbeat law may have energized some voters, and McAuliffe is likely playing on that hunch.

“I think it’s given the pro-abortion candidates a hobbyhorse—they think—to ride into office on,” Turner said, noting some have claimed Youngkin would bring a similar law to Virginia. “They are using it as a fear tactic.”

But she said only people who are unaware of the legislative process would buy that. As she told The Washington Post earlier this month, Virginia doesn’t have the votes for a law like the one in Texas.

McAuliffe has made it clear he would block any pro-life efforts in the state legislature. He has promised to support adding a right-to-abortion amendment to the state constitution, which would invalidate Virginia’s few remaining protections for the unborn.

Youngkin said in gubernatorial debates that he believes in legal abortion in cases of rape, incest, and danger to the mother’s life. He openly dismissed the Texas heartbeat law—celebrated by many pro-lifers as a victory—as “unworkable and confusing.” In the full undercover video, filmed by a liberal advocacy group, Youngkin explained that his campaign focus would be on “taking back the radical abortion policies that Virginians don’t want.” Once he becomes governor and has a House majority, he said, “we can start going on the offense.”

His most expensive ads have focused on a hot topic in Virginia: parental involvement in schools, according to CNBC. Paul Perrone noticed this emphasis among supporters at the polls, too. He saw signs outside of the polling location on Oct. 21 saying things like, “Parents for Youngkin.” He didn’t notice any signs about abortion.

Youngkin may not be what pro-lifers consider the perfect candidate, but Turner said pro-lifers need to “make this process work for the babies.” A Republican veto could be a last line of defense against pro-abortion efforts. And in a letter to the pro-life movement, Youngkin promised to advocate for the Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act and to prevent taxpayer dollars from funding abortions.

Whatever the outcome, Turner noted that Virginia could be a bellwether for what’s to come in the 2022 midterm elections. Whether or not McAuliffe can bring pro-abortion voters to the polls could foreshadow how other voters respond next year.


Leah Savas

Leah reports on pro-life topics for WORLD Magazine and WORLD Digital. She is a World Journalism Institute and Hillsdale College graduate. Leah resides in Grand Rapids, Mich., with her husband, Stephen.

@leahsavas

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