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Reproductive Health Issues in Spotlight as Va. Voters Head to Polls

The outcome of Tuesday's gubernatorial race in Virginia could hinge on women's votes, the AP/Miami Herald reports.

The candidates -- Republican state Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli and Democrat Terry McAuliffe -- have highlighted issues such as abortion rights, sexual assault and divorce throughout the campaign.

According to the AP/Herald, Cuccinelli has "consistently struggle[ed] to connect with women," in part because of his views on abortion and contraception. Meanwhile, McAuliffe has tried to appeal to female voters by criticizing Cuccinelli's positions on reproductive health issues and his opposition to no-fault divorce.

Cuccinelli opposes abortion rights in all cases except to save a woman's life, the AP/Herald reports. As attorney general, he forced the Virginia Board of Health last year to reverse a decision to exempt existing abortion clinics from complying with the same architectural standards as new hospitals. He also supported "personhood" legislation that would have amended the state constitution to stipulate that "life begins at the moment of fertilization."

Although Cuccinelli did not support a controversial state bill that would have required women to have a vaginal ultrasound before an abortion, he said that if an ultrasound is performed, providers should be required to share the results with the patient.

Cuccinelli, however, has maintained that he is the best candidate for supporting women's rights. According to the AP/Herald, Cuccinelli frequently talks about his wife and daughters during campaign events and highlights how he formed the first sexual assault prevention group at the University of Virginia when he was in college.

A Quinnipiac University poll released in late October showed 50% of women support McAuliffe, compared with 37% for Cuccinelli. An earlier Washington Post poll found that 58% of women support McAuliffe, while 34% support Cuccinelli (Thomas/Elliot, AP/Miami Herald, 11/2).