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2017 Endorsement: Ralph Northam for Governor
In 2013, NARAL Pro-Choice Virginia worked to elect Terry McAuliffe for governor, Ralph Northam for lieutenant governor, and Mark Herring for attorney general because we knew a pro-choice executive branch was the only way to halt increasing restrictions on access to reproductive health care in Virginia. Over the past four years, Governor Terry McAuliffe has lived up to his campaign promise to be a "brick wall" in the governor's mansion against the General Assembly's attacks on women's rights and health care access. He has vetoed bills such as attempts to defund Planned Parenthood, stood against anti-choice budget amendments, and called for a review of targeted regulations on abortion providers designed only to shut them down.
We've seen the incredible difference it makes to have a true champion for reproductive rights and health care access in the governor's mansion, especially as the General Assembly continues to be dominated by zealously anti-choice politicians. That's why the 2017 election for Governor McAuliffe's successor is so critical. It will determine whether Virginia continues to move forward on ensuring reproductive health care access for all, or slides backward to renewed attacks on our basic rights.
That's why NARAL Pro-Choice Virginia and our national partner NARAL Pro-Choice America are proud to endorse Lieutenant Governor Dr. Ralph Northam for governor of Virginia in 2017. Ralph Northam has not only consistently opposed attacks on abortion and birth control throughout his political career, but has been an outspoken, affirmative champion for expanding access to the services women need to make the reproductive decisions that are right for themselves and their families.
Ralph is a former Army doctor, a business owner, a two-time state senator, and the current lieutenant governor. He spent much of his career fighting for children – as a pediatric neurologist and volunteer medical director of a pediatric hospice care facility for the last 18 years. A proud veteran and pediatrician with lifelong roots in the Eastern Shore of Virginia, Ralph has a nuanced understanding of the issues facing Virginia families – and he has a track record of standing by his convictions while getting things done.
Since his first run for office in 2007, Dr. Northam has been a consistent and tireless champion for reproductive rights, including the right to access abortion care. He openly ran on his support for reproductive rights while challenging anti-choice incumbent Nick Rerras in a historically conservative district. His unapologetic honesty paid off – Northam won that race by 9 points. Since then he has stood up and fought back against the anti-choice agenda on issue after issue in the Virginia state Senate and as Lieutenant Governor.
Mandatory Ultrasound Battle
In 2012, the Virginia General Assembly debated and passed the infamous mandatory ultrasound and forced delay law. It requires a Virginia woman to have a medically-unnecessary ultrasound and then return on a separate day for her abortion procedure – for no medical reason. It's an invasive restriction that puts politicians in between patients and their doctors and is designed only to shame and burden a woman who's decided to have an abortion.
Ralph Northam didn’t just vote no on this bill as a senator; after NARAL Pro-Choice Virginia executive director Tarina Keene approached Ralph about this legislation, he used his credibility as the only physician in the Senate to speak out on the floor and expose the consequences of the law.
- Northam’s outspoken leadership on the floor brought attention to the bill and led then-Governor Bob McDonnell to push for a language revision saying the bill would not require transvaginal ultrasounds – an attempt to save face after public outrage.
- After this superficial revision to the bill, Northam continued to expose the hypocrisy and lack of medical reasoning behind the mandatory ultrasound and forced delay requirement. Explaining the reality of early ultrasounds, Dr. Northam famously held up his drink and said "I might as well put the ultrasound probe on this bottle of Gatorade.”
- Evan after the bill became law, Northam never stopped fighting the measure. In 2013, Dr. Northam introduced a bill to repeal the mandatory ultrasound law, telling the legislature "I am giving you the opportunity to right the wrong committed last year.”
- In 2014, then Lt. Governor Northam cast the tie-breaking vote in the Virginia Senate to advance a bill that would have repealed the ultrasound law, only to have it blocked by the House of Delegates.
Working to Protect and Advance Reproductive Rights and Health Care Access
Ralph Northam doesn’t just cast the right votes or the say the right things about reproductive rights. He has shown his deep understanding of and commitment to this issue by actively fighting to advance reproductive freedom. Throughout his time in office, Dr. Northam has turned his expertise as a physician into pushes for proactive reproductive health policy:
- 2010: Northam introduced SB 188, which would require limited service pregnancy centers, anti-choice groups known as "crisis pregnancy centers," to follow registration procedures set out by the Department of Health.
- 2011: Northam introduced SB 967, which would require every Virginia school division to implement standards of learning for family life education programs, which currently teach abstinence-only sex education. The bill would have implemented educational standards to reduce incidences of pregnancy, sexually transmitted diseases, and substance abuse among teenagers.
- 2013: Northam introduced SB 1080 which would forbid the state of Virginia from mandating a woman undergo an ultrasound for a non-medical reason – a message pointing out the hypocrisy of the ultrasound mandate – as well as SB 1082 to directly repeal the 2012 mandatory ultrasound and forced delay law.
- 2016 and 2017: Beginning in 2015, Northam advocated as lieutenant governor for a pilot program to increase education and access to highly-effective long-acting reversible contraception (LARC), such as IUDs, for low-income and underinsured Virginians. He worked with Governor McAuliffe to propose budget amendments in 2016 and 2017 that would have used federal funds available from a Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) block grant. Both years, the amendments were blocked by anti-choice legislators during the budget process.
NARAL Pro-Choice Virginia Scorecard Rating and Endorsements
Ralph Northam received a perfect 100% pro-choice rating in NARAL Pro-Choice Virginia's annual scorecard throughout his time in the state Senate, making him the only candidate in the governor’s race to have a consistently pro-choice legislative voting record.
Ralph Northam’s Vision for Virginia
Dr. Northam has laid out clear policy objectives for working families in Virginia. Among a range of issues, his plan includes proposals to address equal pay, paid family leave, and childcare affordability. Dr. Northam knows the playing field is not level in Virginia even though women make up more than 50% of the population.
You can read Ralph Northam's working families plan here. Highlights include:
- Maintain access to abortion and reproductive care and keep legislators out of women’s health care decisions.
- Expand access to long acting reversible contraceptives (LARCs) such as IUDs.
- Overturn the amendment banning abortion coverage in health insurance plans sold through the Virginia healthcare exchange.
- Offer a tax credit to make it affordable for small businesses to allow full-time employees to take at least eight workweeks of paid parental leave.
Throughout his career, Dr. Northam has proven himself to be a thoughtful and dedicated champion for reproductive health. His record makes clear that he respects the ability of women and families to make their own decisions about when and if to have a child – even when that’s not the politically expedient stance.
We know Dr. Northam will be another brick wall in the governor’s mansion against bills that threaten a woman’s reproductive health and freedom. We look forward to working with him in the months and years to come.
Vote Ralph Northam for Governor! The Democratic primary election is June 13 and the general election is November 7. Learn more and make sure you're registered and ready to vote at elections.virginia.gov.