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Women's Issues Become Central Focus Of Attorney General's Race In Virginia

In Virginia, the race for attorney general has become one of the hottest campaigns on the ballot — and women's issues have taken center stage in the campaign.

Back in 2008, a Rockingham County prosecutor came to state Senator Mark Obenshain with a problem. She was trying to prosecute a woman who disposed of the remnants of a miscarried fetus in a dumpster, and she wanted legislation that could help her pursue the case. The senator agreed and crafted legislation that would force women who have had miscarriages to report them to the police, then he had misgivings. Now that he is running for attorney general, Obenshain appeared on WAMU 88.5's The Politics Hour and addressed the issue.

"When it was introduced, I realized it was grossly overbroad, and I called Planned Parenthood and NARAL and asked them to help me take a look at it to see whether it could be narrowed and they determined agreed with me that it could not," he said.

But that's not how NARAL Pro Choice Virginia executive director Tarina Keene remembers it. "Mark Obenshain is trying to re-write history," she says.

She says a similar bill had been introduced in the House of Delegates in 2005, so when leaders at NARAL found out it had been introduced again — this time by Obenshain — they started a pressure campaign to kill it.

"He didn't reach out to us about why we thought this piece of legislation was so horrific until he was getting a lot of pushback," explains Keene.

Democratic attorney general candidate Mark Herring says the issue reflects a pattern of attacking reproductive rights.

"It's a two-sentence bill. And it sounds like he's saying he didn't understand the full impact of it. He wants to be the attorney general, and he can't understand the impact of a two-sentence bill that he himself drafts and puts in?", he says.

Democrats have not won an election for attorney general since 1985, though, and Republicans have a traditional advantage in an office that people associate with law and order. Herring will be facing a difficult fight against Obenshain on Election Day.

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