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Rally Seeks to Protect Women’s Rights

April 28, 2012

Mechelle Hankerson
Capital News Service

RICHMOND – Virginia politicians and women’s rights advocates stressed the importance of voting in local and state elections during the “Unite Against the War on Women” rally today at Festival Park.

Similar rallies were held in other states – part of a national effort to focus on issues that affect all women, such as the salary gaps between male and female workers.

But Virginia’s rally took time to focus on the General Assembly’s efforts during the recently ended session to curb women’s access to reproductive care.

Virginia Delegate Jennifer McClellan, D-Richmond, like most of the day’s other speakers, stressed the importance of voting now that the General Assembly session was over.

“The 2012 General Assembly session was brought to you by those folks that stayed home (and didn’t vote),” she told the crowd. “In Virginia, every election matters and has consequences.”

Other speakers included Delegates Kaye Kory, D-Falls Church, and Charniele Herring, D-Alexandria, as well as former independent Delegate Katherine Waddell (who served in the House of Delegates from 2006-2008). They all noted that Republicans now control the General Assembly.

“They have moved further and further to the right, and now I think it’s time to move them right on out the door,” Waddell told the crowd.

Participants at the rally pointed to:

House Bill 1, which would have defined a fetus as a person. The bill, proposed by Delegate Bob Marshall, R-Manassas, was tabled for the year.

House Bill 62, which would have reduced aid for low-income women who sought an abortion for a child known to have an incapacitating disability before birth. This bill was passed by indefinitely for the session.

HB 462, requiring women to get an ultrasound before having an abortion. As originally introduced by Delegate Kathy Byron, R-Lynchburg, the bill would have mandated a trans-vaginal ultrasound. Gov. Bob McDonnell asked that that requirement be removed. The General Assembly obliged, and McDonnell signed the bill into law on March 7.

Both House Bills 1 and 462 received national attention from political commentator Rachel Maddow and political comedian Jon Stewart.

“We did fight back and defeat (the personhood bill) this year (and) we did defeat HB 62,” McClellan said. “We did that because people like you came … and told their stories. People started to realize that you all matter, your stories matter, and they have the power to change a vote.”

Also speaking at the rally was Tim Kaine, the Democratic candidate in the November election for the U.S. Senate.

“I was so … discouraged with the General Assembly session this year and with the decision of the legislature to, instead of focusing on the issues they needed to focus on, do really patronizing and insulting things to suggest they knew how to make others’ moral choices for them,” said Kaine, a former governor.

Republicans are in the process of choosing their Senate nominee. The candidates include George Allen, a former U.S. senator and governor; Jamie Radtke, a leader in the tea party movement; and Delegate Marshall.

Speakers at the rally noted that women make up 51 percent of the world’s population and assured women’s rights advocates that they can make a difference in their government.

“We need you to help us find candidates who get it,” McClellan told the crowd. “We need you to come out and vote for these candidates and we need you to hold them accountable when they don’t do what is right.”