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Virginia Governor Promises to Veto 20-Week Abortion Ban

Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe is joined by members of the House and Senate as he announces a compromise on a set of gun bills at the Capitol in Richmond, Va., on Jan. 29, 2016. (AP Photo/Steve Helber)

Gov. Terry McAuliffe (D) said he has to veto a late-term abortion ban should it be approved by the Virginia General Assembly, if only to protect the Commonwealth’s economy.

Virginia Del. David LaRock (R), who has proposed the ban, said he can’t believe McAuliffe would equate the abortion of a fetus after 20 weeks of gestation with the need to bring new businesses into the Commonwealth of Virginia.

“He is using business development as an excuse to justify an extreme policy position that is out-of-step with public opinion,” said LaRock.

Christian leader Franklin Graham wrote on his Facebook page that he was also taken aback by McAuliffe’s reasoning.

“Wow,” Graham wrote.“When we are worried more about our state image and making money than about protecting the lives of babies in their mothers’ wombs, it’s obvious we have a big problem. Do some people really not understand what abortion is?”

But that’s just what McAuliffe told the Associated Press as he explained a promise to veto the Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act, which as proposed by LaRock would prohibit abortions after 20 weeks gestation unless doctors decide the abortion is a medical necessity.

It is essentially the same legislation that has been approved in more than a dozen states and the U.S. House of Representatives.

PJM reported Ohio Gov. John Kasich (R) signed one of the late-term abortion bans into law in December.

Kentucky Gov. Matt Bevin (R) made signing a 20-week abortion ban his first order of business after his state’s legislature recessed Jan. 7.

But LaRock has failed twice before to win approval for the bill in Virginia.

He agreed to put the legislation on hold for a year in February 2016, but promised reporters he would try again.

“I really believe when people on either side of the aisle realize what this bill is about, we’ll come together and just say this can’t be done in a society that has regard for human life,” the Washington Post reported LaRock said at the time. “So that’s why I’m passionate about it.”

However, McAuliffe said he wanted to put the 2017 General Assembly on notice that approving LaRock’s proposal would be nothing but a “waste of time.”

“I can’t sit back and have that sitting out at the same time I am traveling the globe recruiting businesses to Virginia,” McAuliffe said. “If there’s something that would be damaging toward business, and to our image around the country and the globe, I’ll veto it, you bet I will.”

While LaRock agreed that Virginia’s economy needs all the help it can get — the state’s annual economic growth of 0.2 percent put it 48th among the 50 states — he also said McAuliffe must think he has discovered a “nexus between late-term abortion and economic development.”

“Concocting this connection with no supporting basis demonstrates his desperation as he tries to justify his extreme pro-abortion policy position while deflecting attention from Virginia’s stagnant economy,” LaRock added in a statement.

LaRock also said if McAuliffe thinks the promised veto of a late-term abortion ban would help Virginia’s standing overseas, he should remember that the “U.S. is one of only seven nations that allows elective abortions after 20-weeks, post-fertilization.”

McAuliffe’s threat aside, the legislation is expected to be discussed by Virginia lawmakers Wednesday.

Even though it’s been defeated twice before, Olivia Gans Turner, president of the Virginia Society for Human Life, said she was “hopeful that this year will bring us one step closer to seeing this bill become law.”

“It is essential that pro-life Virginians contact their state delegates and senators this week and next to ask for their support on this bill,” Turner said. “The governor needs to understand that he is totally out of touch with the will of the public on this bill that protects unborn babies who can feel pain in the womb.”

Pro-choice advocates are worried that this year, Turner’s side will win.

Tarina D. Keene, executive director of NARAL Pro-Choice Virginia, described LaRock’s proposal as a “dangerous and unconstitutional measure” that “would put politicians in the middle of Virginia women and families’ personal decisions about pregnancy and cut off access to safe medical care.”

“State legislatures are emboldened by a Trump presidency to continue attempts to roll back women’s access to abortion,” said Keene.

Anna Scholl, executive director of Progress Virginia, has been worried for nearly a year. And whether or not Virginia buys into McAuliffe’s “economic development equals abortion rights” argument, she doesn’t see any other alternative.

Scholl told the Washington Post back in February 2016 that she was afraid “the only thing that stands in front of new restrictions on women’s access to healthcare is Terry McAuliffe.”