RICHMOND, Va. (WRIC) – Controversy has arisen after the Washington Post obtained audio showing Republican House of Delegates Candidate John Stirrup supporting “total ban” on abortions in Virginia. 

Stirrup later clarified his stance, telling the Washington Post, “I believe we can bring Virginians together around a consensus position to protect life at 15 weeks.”

Stirrup is running in House District 21, which covers parts of Prince William County. The Virginia Public Access Project rates it as one of only seven “competitive” districts up for grabs in the House of Delegates this fall. 

“This is a big disaster for Republicans not just in that district, but across the state,” Rich Meagher, 8News Political Analyst and political science professor at Randolph-Macon College, said. 

Meagher says Stirrup’s comments present a challenge for Republicans because restricting abortion rights isn’t popular in Virginia. 

“It’s really hard for Republicans in the state of Virginia to reach out to moderate voters,” Meagher said. “To reach out to suburbanites saying, ‘Well we are really not as bad as the national party,’ or, ‘We are much more moderate,’ and then have this candidate in one district, in a district that is fairly moderate, come out and say we would get a total ban.”

Meagher cautions that it’s only August, and Stirrup’s comments are unlikely to doom Republicans in November.

“There is plenty of time for the subject to be changed between now and the fall,” Meagher said. “How the economy is doing, there could be other incidents that bring that education issue to the floor for Republicans. But this incident is another important reminder of the importance of reproductive rights to people.” 

In a recent VCU poll, Virginians said a woman’s reproductive rights were the third most important issue facing Virginia today.