Virginia Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli, the Republican candidate for governor, raised the eyebrows of his opponents Tuesday by saying “government legislation shouldn’t address contraception.”
Speaking at Ashby Ponds retirement community in Ashburn, Cuccinelli said he doesn’t “think government should be doing anything about birth control or birth control devices.”
The Republican’s comments were seen as deceptive by Virginia Democrats and the campaign of Cuccinelli’s prime challenger, Democrat Terry McAuliffe.
A fervent conservative and pro-life advocate, Cuccinelli in 2007 cosponsored House Bill 2797 while serving in the Virginia Senate. The bill, which died in the House of Delegates on a 43-53 vote, would have provided “that ‘the right to enjoyment of life’ guaranteed by [the Constitution of Virginia] is vested in each born and preborn human being from the moment of fertilization.”
Last year as attorney general, Cuccinelli lobbied for House Bill 1, a similar “personhood” bill that would’ve provided “that unborn children at every state of development enjoy all the rights, privileges, and immunities available to other persons, citizens ...”
One interest group, the American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG), has stated personhood measures “erode women’s right to privacy and bodily integrity, deny women access to the full spectrum of preventive health care including contraception, and undermine the doctor-patient relationship.”
Cuccinelli was first asked about so-called “personhood legislation” at Ashby Ponds by an elderly resident. The woman asked whether “rumors” in TV ads claiming Cuccinelli would limit access to women’s reproductive rights were false.
“I wouldn’t call them rumors. I might call them lies,” Cuccinelli told the audience of more than 100 people. “I mean, let’s be accurate.”
During a press conference following the sanctioned program, the attorney general reiterated his statements.
“I’ve never supported legislation that invades people’s choices about contraception,” Cuccinelli said. “People can argue what they want about personhood. I’m telling you now and I’ve said it before: Contraception is not something we’re going to regulate. Period.”
The McAuliffe campaign and many on the left decried Cuccinelli’s statements as misleading.
“After sponsoring legislation in 2007 that would ban common forms of birth control including the pill, Cuccinelli is intentionally making false statements to hide his beliefs and record,” said Josh Schwerin, press secretary for the McAuliffe campaign.
There are conflicting viewpoints, however, over whether personhood laws eventually ban or limit the pill and other forms of contraception. A 2012 story on the nonpartisan PolitiFact.com states “we have not found that [personhood] laws bar the use of contraceptives -- at least, certainly not the most common forms.” But “personhood laws could limit some forms of birth control,” the story notes.
Also during his speech Tuesday, Cuccinelli voiced his desire to see the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act dismantled. He said the health care law, commonly called Obamacare, attempts to “redefine what it means to be middle-class in America” by dropping the work week from 40 hours to less than 30 hours.
The attorney general was referencing a provision in the law that requires employers by 2015 provide health insurance to employees who work full-time. The current 2015 deadline was recently pushed back from 2014.
“It is the most economically disruptive rule that I have ever seen that I can think of,” Cuccinelli said of Obamacare.