Republican Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli took heat last week for comparing the anti-abortion movement to the fight against slavery in a 2012 video that Democrats recently disseminated, but it's not the first time he's revealed similar thoughts publicly.

The outspoken conservative and candidate for governor made an almost identical statement in a 2008 "Cuccinelli Compass," a regular letter he writes to supports to supporters, The Washington Examiner has learned. In it, Cuccinelli reviews a biography on British abolitionist William Wilberforce and draws a connection between Wilberforce's fight against slavery to his own efforts in the Virginia Senate to curb abortions in the state.

After an anti-abortion measure was defeated in a Senate committee, Cuccinelli wrote: "Wilberforce was on to something in his approach to his opponents (and the disinterested), and I wonder if similar introspection about life and abortion in our nation and in our Commonwealth -- particularly in the Virginia Senate -- might change the hearts of some legislators? Wilberforce offers us a model worth imitating, and despite setbacks like this morning in the Senate's Ed & Health Committee, one of the greatest lessons from Wilberforce ?-- perseverance -- will serve us all well as we work in the long term to change the course of Virginia toward a greater respect for life and the families that sustain and nurture life."

Cuccinelli repeated similar comments last June during a Family Foundation gathering in Williamsburg, Va. A Democratic tracker captured on video the Republican gubernatorial nominee discussing how Christians won the fight to end slavery and would prevail similarly on abortion. The Associated Press first reported on the video last week.

Democrats immediately criticized Cuccinelli's comparison of the two issues. State party chairwoman Charniele Herring said the comment "betrays a dangerous lack of understanding about the importance of women's health as well as the terrible impact slavery had on our nation."

Cuccinelli is facing Democrat Terry McAuliffe in Virginia's open governor race.

For his part, Cuccinelli defended the remark last weekend during a campaign stop in Yorktown.

"If you go back to my remarks, I talked about a series of things in history -- I was talking to a Christian group -- and the common theme there was it was Christians who fought these tragedies in our history," Cuccinelli told The Daily Press. "It wasn't that we were comparing slavery and abortion. We were noting that it was Christians who led the fight against slavery, and now years later it's Christians who are on point fighting abortion."

The 2008 statement also offers a glimpse into why Cuccinelli became an anti-abortion advocate. According to the letter, he may have once thought that government didn't have a place in that debate.

"Then, one day, during an ordinary lunch conversation with some political friends in the early 1990s, I noted my understanding that life begins at conception. With that, one of my colleagues leaned over to me and asked a simple question, which he left me to answer: 'If you believe that it's a human life, don't you have a moral obligation to defend it?'

"I had never thought of it that way, but it was an easy question to answer when it was cast in that light. And with one thoughtful question, my position on the protection of the unborn was forever changed."