Updated: March 26, 2014, 10:46 AM
When House Speaker Thom Tillis (R-NC), the leading candidate in the GOP primary to face Sen. Kay Hagan (D-NC), released the names of the women serving as co-chairs of his Women for Tillis Coalition one name stuck out: Dr. Mary Susan Fulghum.
The Tillis campaign listed Fulghum as a “retired OB-GYN who is very active in the Raleigh community.” The campaign noted that Fulghum serves on a number of boards and committees and graduated from the University of North Carolina.
There was, however, no mention of Fulghum’s involvement in Planned Parenthood. Fulghum, in fact, happens to be one of the principle founders of the Planned Parenthood Health Systems headquarters in Raleigh, which was first started in 1980. She’s listed as a principal founder on Planned Parenthood’s website today.
It’s an important fact given Tillis’ background and stance on abortion. On his campaign website Tillis describes himself as “proudly Pro-Life.”
“I believe all life is sacred and as Speaker I promoted pro-life policies and helped reverse the pro-abortion state policies Democrats had put in place for decades. In the Senate, I will promote a culture of life and champion the appointment of qualified pro-life judges,” according to Tillis’s page on abortion.
More than that though, Tillis was instrumental in helping to move a controversial anti-abortion bill through the North Carolina legislature last year. The proposal was a motorcycle safety bill that had strict anti-abortion provisions tacked on to it. The legislation added new licensing standards to abortion providers and also required that a doctor be present when an abortion is conducted. Opponents of the proposal argued they were meant to close abortion clinics.
Planned Parenthood Action Fund panned Tillis’ involvement saying he helped move through the state legislature “some of the most dangerous and extreme abortion restrictions in the country and rushed through with every trick in the book.”
According to the Tillis campaign, Fulghum does not object to Tillis’ position on abortion.
“The Fulghums have a long history of supporting conservative, pro-life causes in North Carolina, be it Jesse Helms or others. I spoke with Mary, who said she has not been involved with Planned Parenthood for 30 years and that she does not agree with them on issues of life,” Tillis campaign manager Jordan Shaw told TPM.
Asked to respond to Fulgham’s involvement on the Tillis campaign, Planned Parenthood took aim at Tillis.
“The idea that Thom Tillis is launching a ‘Women for Tillis’ coalition would be laughable if it wasn’t so insulting to North Carolina women and our families,” Melissa Reed, vice president of public affairs for Planned Parenthood Health Systems Action Fund said in a statement on Wednesday. “Thom Tillis doesn’t trust women to make our own health care decisions and we can’t trust him to represent our best interests in the Senate. As the leading advocate for Planned Parenthood health centers in North Carolina, we’ll be working around the clock to ensure voters understand the candidates records and positions on women’s health. North Carolina can’t risk Thom Tillis.”
TPM reached out to Fulghum but has not heard back.