NORFOLK, Va. — Republican State Sen. Jen Kiggans, who is running for a competitive House seat against Democratic Rep. Elaine Luria, suggested she supports an abortion ban after 15 weeks into a pregnancy.
Bryan Piligra, a spokesperson for Kiggans' House campaign, shared a statement Wednesday comparing Luria's position on abortion to laws in authoritarian countries. The Virginia Scope was the first to report on Piligra's statement.
"The vast majority of Virginians - and Americans - support common-sense restrictions on abortion such as protecting babies from 15 weeks on," Piligra said.
"What Virginians don't support is the inhumane and extreme position taken by Rep. Elaine Luria who believes babies should be killed all the way through pregnancy, up until the moment of birth, which is current law in North Korea and China."
He continued: "While Sen. Kiggans believes the states should make these decisions, Rep. Luria voted for her extreme position to have Washington tell Virginians what to do."
The statement aligns with the goal of Graham's bill, which would federally prohibit the procedure after 15 weeks of pregnancy with rare exceptions. But the campaign didn't explicitly say whether she would support that bill or not.
Gianni Snidle, a spokesperson for the Democratic Party of Virginia, criticized the statement from Kiggans' campaign, using "extremist" language.
“Jen Kiggans is an anti-abortion extremist. Full stop," Snidle said. "After attempting to hide and lie about her anti-abortion agenda, Kiggans has finally told Coastal Virginians the truth. Her unwavering support of a nationwide federal abortion ban is a danger to women and out of touch with Coastal Virginians."
After the statement came out, Luria said in a tweet, "She is too extreme for Coastal Virginia."
Luria and her fellow Democrats have sought to paint Kiggans as an extremist, riding a wave of Democratic momentum on the issue after the Supreme Court overturned constitutional abortion rights.
In a recent interview, J. Miles Coleman, the associate editor of elections forecaster Sabato's Crystal Ball, said abortion could be a winning issue for Democrats.
He compared Virginia's 2nd District to New York's 19th District, where a Democrat won in a special House election.
"Just like Virginia's 2nd District, that was a district that Joe Biden only carried by two points," Coleman said. "Abortion seemed to be a winning message for Democrats."
Kiggans has pushed back on the abortion issue, calling it a distraction from economic issues she thinks voters care more about.
In a Sept. 8 interview with "Richmond's Morning News with John Reid," she said the economy, inflation and supply chain shortages were more important issues.
"[The Democrats are] trying to distract with these shiny objects, like the abortion issue, and they're doing it throughout the country, and especially to women candidates that are running," Kiggans told Reid. "But they are running lies...attack ads that are lying about our positions on abortion."
Kiggans said she doesn't support a complete ban on abortion and favors certain exceptions for rape, incest and threat to the life of the mother.
Her comments on the abortion issue's importance contradict a recent poll from Roanoke College, which found that a majority of Virginians support some form of abortion rights.
In the poll conducted between Aug. 7 and 16, 40% of Virginians said abortion should be legal under all circumstances, 48% said it should be legal under some circumstances and just 10% wanted a total ban.
In a statement following Kiggans' Sept. 8 interview, Luria criticized Kiggans' use of the term "shiny objects."
“Abortion is a deeply personal decision for women in Coastal Virginia and throughout the country," Luria said. "A nurse should know that the right to choose is not a ‘shiny object,’ and Jen Kiggans’ dismissive comments this morning are insulting to women everywhere."
She continued: "Jen made clear today that politicians like her should have no place in banning reproductive health care for women, and statements like this are a reminder that Virginians can’t trust her to protect our rights and freedoms."
The messaging from Kiggans' campaign aligns with a recent Republican National Committee memo laying out how candidates should approach the issue.
The memo told candidates to press Democrats on where they stand, paint exceptions to bans as common ground and focus on other issues, like the economy, according to a report from The Washington Post.