Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe on Tuesday vetoed a Republican-backed bill that sought to block state funding for Planned Parenthood, saying he was fulfilling a campaign promise to be a "brick wall" against efforts to limit access to women's health care.
Virginia's GOP-controlled legislature is one of several that have tried in the last year to limit public funding for the women's health group, which performs abortions and provides other health services. President Barack Obama also vetoed a federal effort to defund the Planned Parenthood, the largest U.S. abortion provider.
But the aggressive state-by-state strategy had little chance of success in the Old Dominion. McAuliffe, a Democrat, had long promised to veto the legislation, which he said was part of a continuing effort led by "extremists" to limit abortion rights.
"We're here today to smack down the latest attack on women's health care rights," the governor said at a veto-signing event at a Richmond Planned Parenthood clinic.
The legislation would not have directly affected Planned Parenthood's ability to provide abortions. Instead, it would have blocked small state grants for other health services, like providing tests for cancer and sexually transmitted diseases.
Taylor Medley, a 20-year-old student at the College of William and Mary, said Planned Parenthood is a vital resource for young women who may be too afraid to seek help from their regular doctors or their parents.
"Why should politicians tell me where I can and cannot go for care?" she said.
Supporters of the legislation said it's needed to ensure state funds go to "more comprehensive providers" of health care services.
"The governor is clearly listening to his friends in the abortion lobby, rather than ensuring that women have access to quality care," said Del. Ben Cline, the measure's sponsor.
Cline said he hopes the General Assembly will vote in April to override the governor's veto, but such action is unlikely.