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Posted at 12:59 PM ET, 01/11/2011

Some sit out anti-abortion rally to avoid confronting McDonnell

By Anita Kumar
Anita Kumar

A split has emerged in the anti-abortion community over whether to pressure Gov. Bob McDonnell (R) to direct the state Board of Health to further regulate abortion clinics in Virginia.

Both Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli (R) and the conservative Family Foundation declined to participate in an anti-abortion rally scheduled for Thursday outside the Capitol to avoid "confronting" McDonnell after they found out that organizers designed the event to pressure the governor.

Both Cuccinelli (R) and Family Foundation Chaplain Bishop E.W. Jackson Sr. had been scheduled to attend the rally, which will take place on the second day of the General Assembly's annual session.

"While Attorney General Cuccinelli is a long-time pro-life leader and is very supportive of the people redressing their grievances with their elected officials at a rally like this, he does not support calling on his client -- the governor -- to circumvent the normal public regulatory process, even for the most laudable of goals,'' Cuccinelli spokesman Brian Gottstein said. "While this may be a favored approach to getting a more immediate resolution to the abortion clinic issue, the expanded use of this power -- generally reserved for emergency situations -- would set a bad precedent, allowing future governors to abuse such a power."

Del. Bob Marshall, who is speaking at the rally, describes the Family Foundation's absence as "odd" and "inconsistent" and wonders whether it has to do with the group's president's husband employment with McDonnell. Several conservative activists also e-mailed Family Foundation President Victoria Cobb accusing her of remaining "silent'' because of her desire to not "confront" the governor, according to e-mails provided to The Post.

Cuccinelli issued a legal opinion in August, saying the Board of Health has the authority to regulate clinics in response to legislators who asked whether the state can regulate facilities that provide first-trimester abortions as well as the medical personnel who perform them.

Anti-abortion activists, including Marshall (R-Prince William), who requested the legal opinion, have been asking McDonnell to implement the regulations ever since.

Several organizations, including the American Freedom Project and Hampton Roads for Life, have organized a petition drive to encourage McDonnell to act.

"Governor Bob McDonnell is reluctant to give the directive to the state Board of Health to move forward in promulgating these regulations,'' said Mike Prunty of the American Freedom Project. "This is somewhat puzzling to some because he built his political career as a 'pro-life candidate.' ''

But Marshall said those who think the rally is merely about criticizing McDonnell are being defensive. "He ran as a right-to-life candidate,'' he said. "Just because his Republican consultants don't want him to do things doesn't mean we're bashing him. I don't know where that comes from. He can make his own decisions.''

Cobb said she believes the best way to regulate abortion clinics is by getting legislation passed in the General Assembly -- something her organization has been working on for more than a decade.

In an e-mail to those questioning the Family Foundation's absence at the rally, Cobb wrote that she is working directly with the McDonnell administration on a possible law and expects to see legislation during the next two years.

She said the Family Foundation has criticized McDonnell on issues in the past, and is willing to do so in the future, regardless of her husband Matt's job as deputy secretary of health and human resources. "We've had to confront the governor and we will do so again,'' she said.

Cobb wrote in the e-mail that McDonnell is not going to ask the Board of Health for clinic regulations regardless of grass-roots pressure. The 15-member board is appointed by the governor. Eleven board members were named by former governor Timothy M. Kaine (D). "The regulations would not pass,'' she wrote. "The idea being floated by some that the governor can force the board to do this or remove them all is a non-starter. It simply isn't going to happen. Some may prefer a more confrontational style, but it is obvious that this governor is not going to be confrontational."

Anti-abortion legislators -- including Cuccinelli, who served in the state Senate -- supported bills that would have treated abortion clinics as ambulatory surgery centers and required them to meet hospital-type regulations with regard to equipment and space.

Currently, abortion clinics are regulated the same way as offices where patients receive oral or plastic surgery.

Abortion providers fear that clinics won't be able to afford the costs of making the changes and will shut down or increase their prices. They predict that if the Board of Health imposes the restrictions, 17 of 21 facilities in the state would most likely have to close their doors.

The rally at the bell tower begins at 10:30 a.m. Thursday.

Other speakers include Keith Fournier, deacon of the Catholic Diocese of Richmond and founder of the Catholic Way; David Bereit, national director of 40 Days for Life, a Christian pro-life organization; Shawn Carney, co-founder of 40 days for Life; John Seeds, a Richmond doctor; Andrea Pearson of Silent No More; Rita Dunaway, assistant director of the Valley Family Forum; Tom Glessner, founder and president of the National Institute of Family and Life Advocates; and Karen Zbinden of Concerned Women for America.

Alveda King, niece of Martin Luther King, will speak by audio hook-up. Maddy Curtis, a 16-year-old "American Idol" contestant from Virginia, will sing the national anthem.

By Anita Kumar  | January 11, 2011; 12:59 PM ET
Categories:  Anita Kumar, General Assembly 2011, House of Delegates, Ken Cuccinelli, Robert F. McDonnell, State Senate  
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Comments

"They predict that... if the Board of Health imposes the restrictions, 17 of 21 facilities in the state would most likely have to close their doors."

Close? Really? Muchmore likely, they move to a different facility.

Posted by: BruceFairfax | January 11, 2011 3:42 PM | Report abuse

Dear Ms. Kumar,

This story does not accurately reflect the actual situation of several major pro-life groups in Virginia regarding this week's Rally. The suggestion that Mrs. Cobb's organization is not sponsoring the Rally due to her family connection to the Governors staff is ridiculous at best, and despicable at worst.

The Virginia Society for Human Life, the oldest and largest prolife group in Virginia has also decided not to endorse this particular Rally. We are troubled by the organizers suggestion that Governor Bob McDonnell is not supportive of the pro-life issue because of his handling about how or when to enact abortion clinic regulations.

The truth is that Governor McDonnell has an excellent pro-life record as both a State legislator, as AG, and now as Governor. Only those that wish to force a particular agenda on him now would question that record. Governor McDonnell is the same man who is responsible for several important pro-life laws now in effect in Virginia, including the Women's Right to Know Law.

Pro-lifers know they can count on him to do everything possible in the remaining three years of his term to help save unborn children's lives and to protect their mothers from the violence of abortion!

The timing of this Rally and the pressure being put on the question of regulating clinics is a red herring. It is despicable to suggest that our good pro-life governor is not doing the right thing on this matter. He, like every other member of our government must deal with the process and the policies that effect his powers.

The mainstream pro-life community wants him to move carefully and reasonably through those processes to ensure that the strongest possible measures are put in place in order to effect change and save innocent lives.

The biggest obstacle he and we face in this year's General Assembly is the fact that the majority of members of the Virginia Senate are pro-abortion, making the job of getting pro-life legislation through to his desk profoundly difficult. This of course makes this year's Virginia Senate elections all the more critical to Virginia's pro-lifers.

VSHL is proud to support Governor Bob McDonnell. It is tragic that others in Virginia, in the name of the pro-life cause, would use this gathering to send a message that he isn't doing enough.

Let's deal in the realities and recognize a political agenda when we see it.

Olivia L Gans, President
Virginia Society for Human Life

Posted by: OliviaLGans | January 11, 2011 9:18 PM | Report abuse

Dear Ms. Kumar,

This story does not accurately reflect the actual situation of several major pro-life groups in Virginia regarding this week's Rally. The suggestion that Mrs. Cobb's organization is not sponsoring the Rally due to her family connection to the Governors staff is ridiculous at best, and despicable at worst.

The Virginia Society for Human Life, the oldest and largest prolife group in Virginia has also decided not to endorse this particular Rally. We are troubled by the organizers suggestion that Governor Bob McDonnell is not supportive of the pro-life issue because of his handling about how or when to enact abortion clinic regulations.

The truth is that Governor McDonnell has an excellent pro-life record as both a State legislator, as AG, and now as Governor. Only those that wish to force a particular agenda on him now would question that record. Governor McDonnell is the same man who is responsible for several important pro-life laws now in effect in Virginia, including the Women's Right to Know Law.

Pro-lifers know they can count on him to do everything possible in the remaining three years of his term to help save unborn children's lives and to protect their mothers from the violence of abortion!

The timing of this Rally and the pressure being put on the question of regulating clinics is a red herring. It is despicable to suggest that our good pro-life governor is not doing the right thing on this matter. He, like every other member of our government must deal with the process and the policies that effect his powers.

The mainstream pro-life community wants him to move carefully and reasonably through those processes to ensure that the strongest possible measures are put in place in order to effect change and save innocent lives.

The biggest obstacle he and we face in this year's General Assembly is the fact that the majority of members of the Virginia Senate are pro-abortion, making the job of getting pro-life legislation through to his desk profoundly difficult. This of course makes this year's Virginia Senate elections all the more critical to Virginia's pro-lifers.

VSHL is proud to support Governor Bob McDonnell. It is tragic that others in Virginia, in the name of the pro-life cause, would use this gathering to send a message that he isn't doing enough.

Let's deal in the realities and recognize a political agenda when we see it.

Olivia L Gans, President
Virginia Society for Human Life

Posted by: OliviaLGans | January 11, 2011 9:19 PM | Report abuse

Dear Ms. Kumar,

This story does not accurately reflect the actual situation of several major pro-life groups in Virginia regarding this week's Rally. The suggestion that Mrs. Cobb's organization is not sponsoring the Rally due to her family connection to the Governors staff is ridiculous at best, and despicable at worst.

The Virginia Society for Human Life, the oldest and largest prolife group in Virginia has also decided not to endorse this particular Rally. We are troubled by the organizers suggestion that Governor Bob McDonnell is not supportive of the pro-life issue because of his handling about how or when to enact abortion clinic regulations.

The truth is that Governor McDonnell has an excellent pro-life record as both a State legislator, as AG, and now as Governor. Only those that wish to force a particular agenda on him now would question that record. Governor McDonnell is the same man who is responsible for several important pro-life laws now in effect in Virginia, including the Women's Right to Know Law.

Pro-lifers know they can count on him to do everything possible in the remaining three years of his term to help save unborn children's lives and to protect their mothers from the violence of abortion!

The timing of this Rally and the pressure being put on the question of regulating clinics is a red herring. It is despicable to suggest that our good pro-life governor is not doing the right thing on this matter. He, like every other member of our government must deal with the process and the policies that effect his powers.

The mainstream pro-life community wants him to move carefully and reasonably through those processes to ensure that the strongest possible measures are put in place in order to effect change and save innocent lives.

The biggest obstacle he and we face in this year's General Assembly is the fact that the majority of members of the Virginia Senate are pro-abortion, making the job of getting pro-life legislation through to his desk profoundly difficult. This of course makes this year's Virginia Senate elections all the more critical to Virginia's pro-lifers.

VSHL is proud to support Governor Bob McDonnell. It is tragic that others in Virginia, in the name of the pro-life cause, would use this gathering to send a message that he isn't doing enough.

Let's deal in the realities and recognize a political agenda when we see it.

Olivia L Gans, President
Virginia Society for Human Life

Posted by: OliviaLGans | January 11, 2011 9:20 PM | Report abuse

Dear Ms. Kumar,

This story does not accurately reflect the actual situation of several major pro-life groups in Virginia regarding this week's Rally. The suggestion that Mrs. Cobb's organization is not sponsoring the Rally due to her family connection to the Governors staff is ridiculous at best, and despicable at worst.

The Virginia Society for Human Life, the oldest and largest prolife group in Virginia has also decided not to endorse this particular Rally. We are troubled by the organizers suggestion that Governor Bob McDonnell is not supportive of the pro-life issue because of his handling about how or when to enact abortion clinic regulations.

The truth is that Governor McDonnell has an excellent pro-life record as both a State legislator, as AG, and now as Governor. Only those that wish to force a particular agenda on him now would question that record. Governor McDonnell is the same man who is responsible for several important pro-life laws now in effect in Virginia, including the Women's Right to Know Law.

Pro-lifers know they can count on him to do everything possible in the remaining three years of his term to help save unborn children's lives and to protect their mothers from the violence of abortion!

The timing of this Rally and the pressure being put on the question of regulating clinics is a red herring. It is despicable to suggest that our good pro-life governor is not doing the right thing on this matter. He, like every other member of our government must deal with the process and the policies that effect his powers.

The mainstream pro-life community wants him to move carefully and reasonably through those processes to ensure that the strongest possible measures are put in place in order to effect change and save innocent lives.

The biggest obstacle he and we face in this year's General Assembly is the fact that the majority of members of the Virginia Senate are pro-abortion, making the job of getting pro-life legislation through to his desk profoundly difficult. This of course makes this year's Virginia Senate elections all the more critical to Virginia's pro-lifers.

VSHL is proud to support Governor Bob McDonnell. It is tragic that others in Virginia, in the name of the pro-life cause, would use this gathering to send a message that he isn't doing enough.

Let's deal in the realities and recognize a political agenda when we see it.

Olivia L Gans, President
Virginia Society for Human Life

Posted by: OliviaLGans | January 11, 2011 9:20 PM | Report abuse

First, Coochie's "client" is the citizenry of the Commonwealth of Virginia.

Second, "olds"like Ms. Gans need to be patient when hitting "submit," as the old 286 doesn't work any better than that old Eloctrolux.

For the record, God is both pro-life and pro-death, Lazarus notwithstanding, and no one else gets out of here alive. J. Morrison (another reference for the "olds").

Posted by: RogerRamjet2 | January 11, 2011 10:55 PM | Report abuse

First to Ms. Kumar...in contradiction to the previous post-comment, your article is indeed accurate with the exception of one detail. The intention of the organizers of the rally is not to "pressure" the Governor against his will to issue the order to the Board of Health to promulgate the needed regulations upon abortion clinics, but rather just the opposite. We are attempting to demonstrate the support for him that he needs from across Virginia to reject the very bad advice he is getting from behind and have the moral courage to do the right and moral/ethical thing. Since I am one of the organizers, I know what our intentions are, and Ms. Gans clearly does not.

Secondly to Ms. Gans, you may speak for your particular organization, which is a shame, but you do not speak for the mainstream pro-life community. As for Victoria Cobb, she was asked a simple moral question, and responded with an extensive answer replete with nothing but political considerations. She was a spokeswoman for the Governor's office reciting word for word everyone one of his political talking points on the subject... much like you have just done. Why, you must have studied the same script! Thus it is rather obvious to any sensible person that her husband working in the Governor's administration ...under his Secretary of Health, no doubt, cannot with honesty be described as "ridiculous." I'm afraid the egg is on your face, not ours.

Thirdly, with respect to the prospect of dilly dallying around for the next two years to pass some as of yet undefined law, I'll simply borrow the eloquent words of my good friend Frances Bouton of the Hampton Roads for Life organization:

"We are asking the Governor to direct the boards to implement regulations for abortion facilities NOW. Your solution of a law in two years may or may not happen. It is a nice plan, but it may not happen - for many reasons. So why not order regulations NOW and pray to come up with the law later. The Attorney General has already said that the Governor has the power to order these regulations NOW.

But just to crunch the numbers, about 27,000 babies die each year in Virginia. If even half of the abortion facilities would have to close, that would be 14,000 babies saved. In two years, 27,000 babies. Or we could go very, very low in our estimation and say that only one or two facilities would close. That would represent maybe 2000 or 3000 babies saved. What would move you to save 2000 babies? Would it be to beg our Governor to do whatever he could to save them? Or should we forget about these 2000 and just wait until we get a great law sometime in the future so we can possibly save the later ones?"

The fact that our Governor built his political career as a pro-life candidate over the years is exactly what makes it so disappointing that his "good pro-life record" seems to have screeched to such a conspicuous halt.

Mike Prunty
THE AMERICAN FREEDOM PROJECT
Yorktown, Virginia

Posted by: mprunty | January 12, 2011 12:35 AM | Report abuse

The Family Foundation and Virginia Society for Human Life have no credibility. They are in bed with the politicians. The represent the politicians to the pro-life community not the babies to the politicians. The provide cover for Bob McDonnell who broke his campaign promise to defund Plannded Parenthood and now they are providing cover again. Neither Family Foundation or VSHL would even report the 2007 vote on Life at Conception that Virginians for Life and other true pro-life groups worked so hard to get under the leadership of Delegate Bob Marshall. And remember it was Cuccinelli who lied to pro-lifers by saying that Frank Wolf was a "pro-life" leader. Endorsing Wolf was bad enough but calling a guy who wants to use federal tax dollars to murder babies because their fathers commit rape or incest is beyond the pale. Cuccinlli is clearly trying to move left without losing his base. For people like Cuccinlli and the establishment pro-life groups abortion is just another political issue to raise money on. They never look at it from the babies perspective whose blood will stain the trash dumpsters of Planned Parenthood tomorrow.

Posted by: pmmchugh | January 12, 2011 8:33 AM | Report abuse

The Family Foundation and Virginia Society for Human Life have no credibility. They are in bed with the politicians. The represent the politicians to the pro-life community not the babies to the politicians. The provide cover for Bob McDonnell who broke his campaign promise to defund Plannded Parenthood and now they are providing cover again. Neither Family Foundation or VSHL would even report the 2007 vote on Life at Conception that Virginians for Life and other true pro-life groups worked so hard to get under the leadership of Delegate Bob Marshall. And remember it was Cuccinelli who lied to pro-lifers by saying that Frank Wolf was a "pro-life" leader. Endorsing Wolf was bad enough but calling a guy who wants to use federal tax dollars to murder babies because their fathers commit rape or incest is beyond the pale. Cuccinlli is clearly trying to move left without losing his base. For people like Cuccinlli and the establishment pro-life groups abortion is just another political issue to raise money on. They never look at it from the babies perspective whose blood will stain the trash dumpsters of Planned Parenthood tomorrow.

Posted by: pmmchugh | January 12, 2011 8:35 AM | Report abuse

The Family Foundation and Virginia Society for Human Life have no credibility. They are in bed with the politicians. They represent the politicians to the pro-life community not the babies to the politicians. They provided cover for Bob McDonnell who broke his campaign promise to defund Plannded Parenthood and now they are providing cover again. Neither the Family Foundation or VSHL would even report the 2007 vote on Life at Conception that Virginians for Life and other true pro-life groups worked so hard to get under the leadership of Delegate Bob Marshall. And remember it was Cuccinelli who lied to pro-lifers by saying that Frank Wolf was a "pro-life" leader. Endorsing Wolf was bad enough but calling a guy who wants to use federal tax dollars to murder babies because their fathers commit rape or incest a "pro-life" leader is beyond the pale of acceptable. Cuccinlli is clearly trying to move left without losing his base. For people like Cuccinlli and the establishment pro-life groups abortion is just another political issue to raise money on. They never look at it from the babies perspective whose blood will stain the trash dumpsters of Planned Parenthood tomorrow.

Posted by: pmmchugh | January 12, 2011 8:39 AM | Report abuse

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