Hundreds Rally to Fight Abortion Law

Abortion rights supporters tell Governor McDonnell to reject politically motivated regulations on Virginia’s women’s health centers

The Virginia Coalition to Protect Women’s Health rallied with hundreds of supporters in Richmond on Saturday, October 15 to demand that lawmakers stop the war on women’s reproductive health and rights. Protesters criticized Virginia’s politically-motivated regulations on abortion providers that will drastically reduce Virginia women’s access to safe, legal abortion and other reproductive health care.

In February 2011, Republican Governor Bob McDonnell signed into law SB 924 requiring first-trimester abortion clinics to be regulated as hospitals. The state already requires abortions after the first 12 weeks of pregnancy to be performed in a general hospital. If unchallenged in the courts, these regulations will close most, if not all, abortion facilities in the state.

Keynote speaker Eleanor Smeal, co-founder and President of the Feminist Majority Foundation, told the crowd, “The more we talk about jobs, the more they pass bills to prohibit the access not only to abortion, but to birth control.”

Protesters heard from former patients of Virginia women’s health centers who testified in support of Virginia’s providers, praising them as “gateways to comprehensive reproductive health care” and “essential for access to low-cost, affordable health care for the poor, the unemployed and the uninsured”. Representatives from the faith community, including Catholics for Choice, Religious Coalition for Reproductive Choice, and Unitarian Universalists for Reproductive Justice, spoke out against the law calling it “misogynist” and “unjust.”

Virginia lawmaker Delegate Charniele Herring (D-Alexandria) called for an end to the War on Virginia Women, saying, “We’re standing here today because Governor McDonnell and Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli have decided to abuse the regulatory system. This is a dangerous piece of regulation.”

Medical professionals also spoke to the crowd, including Patricia Crain, a Board Certified Family Nurse Practitioner who has worked for the last 26 years in an abortion care practice, and operators of women’s health centers including Shelley Abrams, manager of Capital Women in Richmond and Rosemary Codding, director of Patient Services at Falls Church Healthcare Center. Codding underlined Governor McDonnell’s refusal to work with abortion providers on the new regulations saying, “Governor McDonnell, I had hoped to talk to you about these regulations. But you wouldn’t talk to me and you wouldn’t talk to any abortion provider about these regulations. You didn’t even ask us what would help women and their families.”

Youth organizations and health advocacy groups were also represented. Carmen Berkley, field director for Choice USA, a pro-choice organization focusing on youth empowerment and engagement, demonstrated the broad impact of such regulations and connected the situation in Virginia with attacks on women’s health across the country.

Feminist Majority Foundation 10/17/11

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