The Republican incumbent in a hotly contested House of Delegates race in Henrico County is rejecting charges by his challenger that he opposes emergency contraceptives for rape victims.
"That my opponent continues to make false claims about my record is disappointing," said Del. John M. O'Bannon III, R-Henrico. He is seeking a sixth term in the 73rd District, which includes portions of Henrico and Richmond.
Tom Shields, administrator of a leadership program at the University of Richmond, cites O'Bannon's vote on House legislation in 2002 as evidence that he opposes emergency contraception for rape victims. The measure was defeated in a Virginia Senate committee.
O'Bannon, a doctor, counters that the measure would have allowed a physician to refuse to perform an abortion for religious reasons.
"Protections like this are essential, not only for the preservation of individual religious liberties, but also to ensure church-based health-care facilities can continue to provide care," O'Bannon said in a written statement this week.
The measure would have affirmed the privilege -- under the already existing "conscience clause" -- of "any physician, pharmacist or other medical or health-care professional to [refuse to] dispense any birth-control pill or other medication for purpose of performing an abortion."
The legislation was sponsored by Del. Kathy J. Byron, R-Lynchburg, an opponent of abortion rights.
Shields made the charge in a Sept. 3 statement in which he attempted to link O'Bannon to the controversy surrounding GOP gubernatorial nominee Bob McDonnell's law-school thesis.
In the 1989 thesis, McDonnell, among other things, criticized working women, gays and contraception.
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