By Kathryn Watson | Watchdog.org, Virginia Bureau
ALEXANDRIA, Va.—As a candidate, Terry McAuliffe campaigned on a pro-choice platform. As governor, McAuliffe is beginning to transform that platform into policy.
This week, McAuliffe announced he is appointing five new members to the Virginia Board of Health and ordering them to review state regulations that impose the same construction standards for hospitals on first-trimester abortion facilities.
It’s a signal the Democratic governor is ready to wield his executive power to alter yet another socially charged policy.
“I am concerned that the extreme and punitive regulations adopted last year jeopardize the ability of most women’s health centers to keep their doors open and place in jeopardy the health and reproductive rights of Virginia women,” McAuliffe said in a news conference Monday.
What McAuliffe didn’t trumpet in the news conference is that Planned Parenthood, the leader in the industry that altered regulations would benefit, was the fourth-largest single contributor to his 2013 gubernatorial bid.
Planned Parenthood contributed more than $1.7 million to McAuliffe in 2013, according to the Virginia Public Access Project. Plus, NARAL Pro-Choice Virginia donated $56,000 to McAuliffe’s campaign.
Planned Parenthood donated roughly $200,000 to Attorney General Mark Herring and nearly $100,000 to Lt. Gov. Ralph Northam, a physician by trade.
Many of those donations came in the form of staff time and canvassing for the candidates.
“I am supportive of the governor’s request for a review of the TRAP (Targeted Regulation of Abortion Providers) regulations and I am hopeful that the board will conduct an independent review genuinely focused on health and safety, and absent of outside political influences,” Northam said in an email to supporters.
Together, McAuliffe, Northam and Herring are proving themselves willing to make bold, liberal ideological moves as former Gov. Bob McDonnell and former Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli were to make bold, conservative ideological moves. It was McDonnell and Cuccinelli who pushed for the stricter, controversial abortion clinic standards, which went into effect last year.
The so-called TRAP laws in Virginia have already caused five clinics to close because they can’t meet the new requirements — things such as larger parking lots and hallways. At least 34 states have some sort of TRAP law, according to the National Abortion Federation.
McAuliffe’s move didn’t shock Mallory Quigley, communications director for the pro-life Susan B. Anthony List.
“It’s obviously no surprise,” Quigley told Watchdog.org. “Terry McAuliffe said he would be a brick wall to any and all pro-life measures, and Planned Parenthood really bankrolled a lot of his campaign, so it’s just really expected.”
Neither McAuliffe nor Northam responded to Watchdog.org’s request for comment.
Kathryn Watson is an investigative reporter for Watchdog.org’s Virginia Bureau, and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.