- Associated Press - Thursday, January 19, 2017

RICHMOND, Va. (AP) - Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe plans to skip President-elect Donald Trump’s inauguration, but travel to Washington the day after to rally with a leading abortion-rights advocate.

McAuliffe, a Democrat, said at a Capitol news conference Thursday that he and Lt. Gov. Ralph Northam would accompany Planned Parenthood President Cecile Richards at Saturday’s Women’s March. The event was organized, in part, to protest many of Trump’s policies and statements. Virginia’s Democratic attorney general, Mark Herring, is also planning to attend.

Although he is close friends with former Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton, McAuliffe said his plans weren’t meant as a snub to the next Republican president. He said he’s eager to work with Trump on issues affecting Virginia, including defense and infrastructure spending, but the governor said “part of that equation is open and welcoming government.”

“Saturday will be a message to the country, and to the globe that we in Virginia, we lean in on the very important issue as it relates to women’s rights,” McAuliffe said.

Northam is looking to shore up Democratic voters before the June gubernatorial primary after the surprise late entrance of former U.S. Rep. Tom Perriello into the race. Abortion rights could be a major issue in the primary, thanks to Perriello’s vote for an anti-abortion amendment while in Congress.

Perriello has said he regrets the vote, and is also planning to attend Saturday’s event with a group of women from Charlottesville. But Northam and his allies have been consistently touting the lieutenant governor’s long support for abortion rights. Northam, a pediatric neurologist, led the Democrats’ charge against a 2012 Republican bill that would have required intrusive ultrasound exams of women seeking abortions.

At Tuesday’s news conference, McAuliffe and Northam blasted Republican lawmakers for proposing anti-abortion measures, including a proposed 20-week abortion ban, this legislative session.

“You need to stay out of people’s personal lives, and you need to stay out of my medical office,” Northam said.

McAuliffe said Republicans should stop focusing on socially divisive legislation, which he said hurts the state’s business-friendly image.

But Republicans mocked McAuliffe and Northam’s plans to travel Saturday as hypocritical.

“Democrats say over and over again, ‘Republicans focus on social issues,’ but the only issues that Democrats talk about are social issues,” said Republican Del. Greg Habeeb.

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