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By Sean Gorman September 19, 2013

McAuliffe ad says Cuccinelli "wants to make all abortion illegal"

Democrat Terry McAuliffe keeps returning to abortion in his effort to paint Republican Ken Cuccinelli as a conservative extremist.

A new ad by McAuliffe features Holly Puritz, a Norfolk obstetrician and gynecologist, saying she’s "offended" by Cuccinelli.

"Cuccinelli wants to make all abortion illegal, even in cases of rape and incest, even to protect a woman’s health," she says.

We asked McAuliffe’s campaign for proof of its blanket claim. Spokesman Josh Schwerin pointed to Cuccinelli’s support of personhood bills in 2007 and 2012 that would have granted legal rights to human embryos from the moment of conception. Those bills, he said, would have banned all abortions.

Cuccinelli, as we’ve noted before, did support personhood bills. But that doesn’t mean he opposes abortion in every circumstance. Since his first campaign for the state Senate in 2002, he has backed a narrow exception for abortions in cases where a mother’s life would be endangered by remaining pregnant.

Cuccinelli’s position was well known to McAuliffe’s campaign. In a Sept. 17 news release announcing the ad and justifying its claims, McAuliffe’s camp noted that during a 2009 debate, "Cuccinelli said he would support abortion only when the woman’s life was at risk."

While researching another abortion-related claim this summer, we asked Cuccinelli’s camp if the candidate still carved out that lone exception. His advisers declined to answer.

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The Cuccinelli campaign did, however, confirm for and The Washington Post, earlier this month that the candidate still holds that abortions should be allowed only to save a mother’s life. Both organizations published articles containing the information about a week before McAuliffe’s commercial debuted.

Statistics are not available for the number of abortions that are performed to save the life of a mother. Neither the Guttmacher Institute nor the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention collect such data.

Guttmacher, in a 2004, conducted a survey of 1,209 abortion patients. Four percent of the women cited personal health problems as the chief reason they were having an abortion.

Our ruling

McAuliffe’s ad says, "Cuccinelli wants to make all abortion illegal, even in cases of rape and incest, even to protect a woman’s health."

Cuccinelli is an adamant opponent of abortion, but he has consistently supported one rare exception: Allowing abortion when a mother’s life is endangered by pregnancy. His position was known to McAuliffe’s campaign and incongruously cited in its news release announcing the ad.

It’s not easy to overstate Cuccinelli’s objections to abortion, but McAuliffe’s ad manages to do just that. We rate the claim Mostly False.

Our Sources

McAuliffe for Governor, "Offended," Sept. 17, 2013.

McAuliffe for Governor, "New Ad: Cuccinelli’s extreme attacks on women’s access to health care," Sept. 17, 2013.

Virginia state code "When abortion or termination of pregnancy lawful after second trimester of pregnancy," accessed July 30, 2013.

E-mail from Josh Schwerin, spokesman for McAuliffe for Governor, Sept. 17, 2013.

Ken Cuccinelli’s 2002 state senate campaign website via the WayBack Machine, accessed Sept. 18, 2013., "More (mostly accurate) Virginia attacks," Sept. 11, 2013.

The Washington Post, "Latest McAuliffe ad in campaign for Virginia governor hits Cuccinelli on abortion," Sept. 17, 2013.

The Washington Post, "Virginia governor’s race: where they stand on the issues," Sept. 9, 2013.

The Guttmacher Institute, "Reasons U.S. women have abortions: quantitative and qualitative perspectives," 2005.

The Virginian-Pilot, "McAuliffe add overstates Cuccinelli’s opposition to abortion," Sept. 17, 2013., "Top five things you need to know about Ken Cuccinelli," Feb. 8, 2013.

PolitiFact national, "Obama ties Romney and Ryan to abortion ban with no rape, incest exceptions," Sept. 11, 2012.

PolitiFact Wisconsin, "Obama says Ryan supports banning all abortions," Aug. 17, 2012.

PolitiFact Virginia, "Cuccinelli says he never backed legislation that limits contraception choices," Sept. 16, 2013.

Roanoke Times, "GOP hopefuls debate for top prosecutor job," Feb. 18, 2009., "The life of the mother," Oct. 23, 2012.

E-mail from Rebecca Wind, spokeswoman for the Guttmacher Institute, Sept. 19, 2013.

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McAuliffe ad says Cuccinelli "wants to make all abortion illegal"

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