NARAL Pro-Choice America and its Virginia affiliate on Monday endorsed Lt. Gov. Ralph Northam in the Democratic primary for the state’s upcoming gubernatorial race, lauding the physician’s record as a champion of reproductive rights and health in the state.
“We do not always get involved in primaries, but this year the choice was crystal clear when it comes to the next governor of Virginia,” Tarina Keene, executive director of NARAL Pro-Choice Virginia, said at a press conference at the Falls Church Women’s Healthcare Center in Virginia.
“Dr. Ralph Northam trusts women,” she said, recounting how Northam had “fought hard and stood loudly and proudly for women’s reproductive rights” in the state legislature and more recently as Virginia’s lieutenant governor.
Keene noted that during his tenure as a state senator, Northam stood up against a Republican-led effort to institute mandatory ultrasounds before abortion procedures. He introduced bills to overturn that law the next year, Keene said.
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“And while his ultrasound brawl may be his most well-known reproductive rights fight, over and over—whether it was politically expedient—on the senate floor, in committee, and as the lieutenant governor, Ralph Northam has proven time and again his utmost trust and respect for the women of Virginia,” said Keene.
Northam said he “couldn’t be prouder” to accept the group’s endorsement. Noting that Keene had credited him with having “led the fight” against some of the GOP’s restrictions on reproductive health care in the state, Northam swiftly offered credit to legislative allies in the room for joining him in his efforts.
“I am a fighter, but I’ve had a lot of people standing beside me,” he said. “This is not something that any one person can do by themselves.”
Northam said his wife will travel across the state during the campaign to conduct focus groups on reproductive health care, among other issues.
“What we have watched, and I think all of you can agree, is a group of legislators—and I remind people, most of whom are men by the way—that think they’re in a better position to tell women what they should and should not be doing with their bodies,” Northam said, pointing to Virginia’s targeted regulation of abortion providers (TRAP) laws.
“The Republicans told us that they were to make it safer for women. Well I can tell you as a pediatric neurologist that one of the things that bothered me so much, the procedures that I do as a pediatric neurologist in my office are much more dangerous than an abortion,” he said. “You know, I oftentimes said, I hear you all say, ‘Less government, we want less regulations in our life,’ well, the TRAP laws fly directly in the face of saying” that.
Northam recounted fighting against Republican efforts to pass a transvaginal ultrasound measure. Northam remarked while speaking out against the measure as a state senator that he “might as well put the ultrasound probe on this bottle of Gatorade,” while holding up the drink, according to the Washington Post. “I’m going to see just as much.”
“Again, these pieces of legislation are not to make it safer for women,” Northam said. “They’re really to shame women. And those are decisions a woman, her partner, and her provider need to make.”
Northam touted the recent announcement of an initiative to expand access to long-acting reversible contraceptives in Virginia. He said those who opposed the move falsely claimed IUDs, one of these forms of contraception, cause abortion.
“This is what we’re up against, ladies and gentleman. This is why these elections have tremendous, tremendous consequences,” he said.
Virginia’s lieutenant governor concluded by condemning congressional efforts to repeal the Affordable Care Act. “They’re talking about defunding good groups like Planned Parenthood. I want to tell you today that the only people who will benefit from this plan that they’re proposing in Washington is middle-aged, affluent males who are healthy,” Northam said. “It doesn’t help women, it doesn’t help children, and it doesn’t help the elderly.”
Northam will face Democratic challenger Tom Perriello in Virginia’s primary, which is scheduled for June 13 ahead of the state’s November general election. Perriello served as a U.S. congressman representing Virginia. Though Perriello has opposed federal funding for abortion care, he has since said he would be a “staunch and committed defender of reproductive autonomy” and would work to make contraception and abortion more accessible if elected.