Intersectionality on campus: Backlash against pride week at JMU

sarah hogg pic

In fall 2013, Sarah started a “Why I’m voting pro-choice campaign on the JMU campus”

By Sarah Hogg, Choice Out Loud intern at James Madison University. Connect with Sarah at @SarahLovely or email her here

I remember exactly when I made the conscious decision to make politically charged pro-choice and queer activism my life’s work. I was just barely nineteen, sitting in my college town’s Obama campaign headquarters on November 5th, 2012, waiting for election results to come in and reflecting on my work over the past three and a half months. In August of 2012, I accepted a fellowship with Organizing for America to work on President Obama’s campaign. I worked everyday canvassing, phone banking, registering voters, and advocating for political issues on my campus, James Madison University, in Harrisonburg, Virginia. I remember sitting on the edge of my seat in tears, simultaneously full of anxiousness and hope, waiting for the race to be called. When I found out that President Obama won, I knew I could never turn away from this work. I had truly found what I was meant to do, and that was an amazing feeling.

Fast forward to now, almost a year and a half after election night, and so much and so little has changed at the same time. Since fall of 2012, I’ve interned with Planned Parenthood and staffed Terry McAuliffe’s campaign for Governor. I’m in the middle of my second year serving on the exec board of JMU’s only student-led LGBTQ+ organization, Madison Equality, and I’m in my third semester interning for NARAL Pro-Choice Virginia. All of my experiences have been amazing, and I feel so fortunate for the opportunities I’ve been afforded. While I love the work I do, it can also be unbelievably challenging mentally and emotionally, something I’ve especially come to find in the last week.

Sarah (right) with Alena, Advocacy Manager of NARAL Pro-Choice VA

At my school over the past week, our queer community has received a shocking amount of backlash to our annual pride week, GayMU. GayMU is a weeklong celebration of queer sexuality and gender identity, and it’s been a part of James Madison University for many years. While in previous years we saw a protest here or there, this year Madison Equality and the queer community at large at JMU have been the unfortunate recipients of a considerable amount of discrimination and hate speech. After sending out our bulk e-mail advertising GayMU, our exec board received homophobic responses from students complaining about our week of celebration. One e-mail was from an outraged student who threatened to take legal action against us immediately because his religious liberties were being infringed upon. (Of course, this is utterly ridiculous and he has no ground.) Another student’s e-mail detailed the ways in which we were throwing our choice to be queer in his face, and also claimed we were indecent and seeking attention. These e-mails were accompanied by a smattering of negative responses on social media.

On Thursday evening (April 3rd), a twitter account surfaced named “StraightJMU.” It’s bio reads: “Real JMU gentleman. We need to take our school back into our own hands!” and associates itself with a fraternity on JMU’s campus. The account quickly began to spew hate, bigotry, and extreme discrimination, and even began to target specific students—myself included. In a response to a tweet of mine proclaiming queer people’s right to be at JMU, I was told to go up north. Other students were also told hateful things. This account doesn’t have many followers, and I want to emphasize the outpouring of support that JMU’s queer community has received from students and faculty, but that doesn’t change the fact that people like this exist on our campus.

One thing is clear about the GayMU issue we’re facing at James Madison University: Queer people are not always welcome. On a campus that boasts acceptance and friendliness like no other school, this is a huge deal. We are told we should not be here, that we should not exist, that we should stay subordinate. And this is why I’m writing today. It is absolutely impossible to look at queer issues without also thinking of issues of reproductive justice, of racism, sexism, classism, ableism. I’ve been organizing in the pro-choice movement for almost a year and a half, and I see an unbelievable amount of connections between the subordination of women and women’s bodies and the homophobia and transphobia queer folks are facing on my campus today. Women have consistently been told that we are not fully human. Instead, we are seen as pawns in political games, individuals whose bodies are not truly their own in doctor’s offices and abortion clinics, unworthy of equal rights, protection, and respect. Queer folks experience the same thing. We are repeatedly told that we are in some way unnatural or abnormal, that expressing ourselves and loving others freely are high crimes, that we don’t belong in society and should instead hide ourselves and step back into the closets that confined and damaged so many of us for so long. People of color, disabled folks, and individuals of low socioeconomic status (among many other oppressed and minority groups) experience similar discrimination that is equally as threatening and dangerous.

JMU i stand

As an out queer woman, I know how important intersectionality is when engaging in activism. I cannot fight for queer rights or women’s rights without also fighting for the rights of other historically oppressed minorities. Our oppressions intersect within ourselves, within our communities, and within our culture. Being an activist means constantly fighting dominant, subjugating systems and forces within our culture—patriarchy, heteronormativity and heterosexism, the gender binary, white-centric ideas of what it means to be American, institutions that refuse to make themselves accessible for people with disabilities, the list goes on.

When I made the conscious decision to make activism my life’s work, I had no idea there were so many entanglements and red tape surrounding what I love. I hardly knew what intersectionality meant, and I hadn’t come out yet. I will continue to fight, and I urge you to join me. Please support my queer community at James Madison University this week, keeping in mind the intersectional oppressions that keep so many of us in places where we feel immobile and unable to take action. But, with this, we CAN take action. You CAN help. To stand in solidarity with queer students at JMU, please share the above graphic & use the hashtag #SupportJMUpride. Thank you for standing with us!

 

Pro-choice on campus: George Mason University

By Elvira Razzano, Choice Out Loud intern at George Mason University 

After our pro-choice student organization was forced to disband in the Spring of 2013 due to a low member turnout at meetings, I was motivated to build a coalition of pro-choice students at George Mason University. I was excited to join NARAL Pro-Choice Virginia as their Choice Out Loud intern on campus, and I immediately  started  reaching out to my pro-choice friends, who donated their time to advertising my events and helped me table to recruit more pro-choice students.

Elvira Razzano on the George Mason University campus!

From the start, our biggest obstacle was the fact that our campus climate definitely leaned anti-choice; there is a registered pro-life student organization that frequently holds events on campus, most visibly by holding graphic images in the center of campus every so often. However, I knew that with enough momentum we could show George Mason University that their movement did not represent the student body as a whole.

On a rainy Friday afternoon in February, I organized a few students to counter-protest these anti-choice,  graphic images on campus. We got plenty of thumbs up and thank-yous from passersby, showing us that the student body recognized and appreciated our pro-choice efforts. It was that day that I learned that the Genocide Awareness Project, an anti-choice organization that travels to college campuses with huge graphic images that compare abortion to genocide, was coming to campus.  I knew I had to do something, so I spent most of March planning a massive counter-protest against them.

GMU Protest

Elvira organized dozens of GMU students to protest an offensive anti-choice display on campus

I’m happy to report that pro-choice students were a constant presence against the Genocide Awareness Project when they were on campus March 24th, 25th, and 26th! We held assertive signs with slogans that said “Pro Choice is not Pro Abortion,” “My Constitutional Rights Are Not Up For Debate,” and “Not Your Uterus? Not Your Decision.” We engaged in peaceful conversation with members of the Genocide Awareness Project and received overwhelming support and affirmation from the Mason community; some students were compelled to drop their things, grab a sign, and counter-protest with us.

Although the counter-protest against the Genocide Awareness Project was a huge success, it is imperative that the Mason community knows that reproductive rights are still under attack even though the Genocide Awareness Project is no longer on our campus. I am excited to spend the rest of my Choice Out Loud internship letting the Mason community know just that!

A TRAP Tantrum in Manassas

By: Michelle Kinsey Bruns, NARAL Pro-Choice Virginia Foundation Board Member

Click for Facebook event and RSVP!In the last year, Virginia’s number of abortion clinics has dropped from 20 to 18, due to new regulations designed to be too tough to meet. In Manassas, one City Council member has spent the last six years leading a big-government crusade for these burdensome clinic regulations. Winning the restrictions he wanted at the state level last year hasn’t slowed Marc Aveni’s zeal for still more restrictions at the local level.

Next Monday, March 10, the Council will hold a re-vote that Aveni has forced on a question he lost by a 5-1 vote over a month ago: should Manassas single out clinics for fast-tracked zoning reclassification and special regulations requiring public hearings and a city council vote as a condition of operation?

Having failed to get his way, Aveni packed the last city council meeting with 100 clinic protesters to insist that the council re-do the vote, simply because he didn’t like its original outcome. We pro-choice people of conscience, from Manassas or elsewhere, need to be seen and heard in that council room on Monday night (RSVP on Facebook!), because the outrageous unfairness of a stunt-mob reversal of a finished vote doesn’t mean it can’t happen. There must be taxpayers who would like this council to accomplish something other than regulating pregnant people’s bodies, but those aren’t the people Aveni packed the chamber with last week.

Let’s back up. Aveni was first elected to Manassas City Council in 2006. Within the year, he proposed a resolution suggesting that the city amend its code to regulate its one abortion clinic, despite its lack of standing or technical expertise to do so. After the council was informed that medical regulation is a state function, Manassas’ fringey anti-choice Delegate Robert Marshall then suggested Board of Health regulation to Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli’s office as a way around State Senate rebuffs of repeated House of Delegates attempts to restrict abortion access. In 2010, Cooch responded with, essentially, “that’s a fabulous idea!” And then there, again, was Marc Aveni, with a resolution of the City of Manassas’ support for greater state abortion regulations, over the objections of fellow City Council Republican Mark Wolfe. Wolfe called city involvement in the matter “inappropriate,” but his no vote was the only one.

Three years later, in June 2013, Cooch had reconfigured and threatened the state Board of Health into giving him the draconian regulations he wanted; the new rules went into effect; and the first clinic to fall to the new regulations closed its doors.

Game over, right? Anti-choice got its Virginia TRAP law. But they’re weren’t done. They’re never done.

A month later, the lone clinic in the city of Fairfax attempted to relocate to a new space more suited to the new state regulations. The Fairfax City Council not only denied the Fairfax clinic a permit because of concerns about the amount of parking at the site (…really). They also created, on a day’s notice, a new Special Use Permit designation for medical facilities, with broad exemptions that seemed to apply to everything except abortion clinics. The permit would cost $4800 and require public hearings and a City Council vote as a condition of operation.

Instead of relocating, the Fairfax clinic closed.

Fifteen miles away in Manassas, anti-choice crusaders took note.

On October 28, two longtime Manassas clinic protesters stood to speak against women’s access to reproductive healthcare during the public comment period at a City Council meeting. They’d done so dozens of times before, but this time, they went farther. They asked the Council to consider copying Fairfax’s new municipal clinic regulations. Zoning reclassification, special use permit, public hearings, council approval. In short: arbitrary, big-government, partisan and ideological roadblocks, not to just abortion but also a broad range of other safe, legal, and necessary reproductive health and related care.

Immediately, Councilman Aveni offered a motion to do what the protesters had suggested. The vote was unanimous. And most of the council meetings of 2014 so far have had from a few minutes to several hours devoted to this issue—which, remember, should have been rendered moot last year when Aveni got the onerous clinic regulations he wanted from the state.

It’s worth noting that the two clinic protesters and Aveni are all members of All Saints Catholic Church in Manassas. For bonus points, so is Delegate “Sideshow Bob” Marshall. The protesters have both been “leadership team” members of the Manassas outpost of the national 40 Days For Life clinic harassment project. Manassas 40DFL, in turn, has close ties to the “AAA Women for Choice” (…really) anti-choice crisis pregnancy center beside the Manassas abortion clinic, which is a personal favorite of Ken Cuccinelli’s, and where staff told a NARAL Pro-Choice Virginia Foundation undercover investigator in 2012 that contraceptive pills would give her breast cancer (spoiler alert: no). One of AAA’s “counselors” is something of a city council regular, as well. I got a taste of how far outside the mainstream this crew is at a January Land Use Committee meeting: as the committee met in closed session, the pair from 40DFL and the AAA “counselor” spent a full thirty minutes explaining to me in the hallway that my marriage is invalid because I don’t plan to have children, and having babies is my “fulfillment as a woman” (…really).

These extreme anti-women activists are not everyday citizens concerned with women’s health. In fact, they seem pretty tight with Aveni, based on a huddle I saw them all in during a break at one council meeting. With this cast of recurring characters, the nonstop legislative harassment of the city’s present and future abortion providers looks a lot like an extracurricular church project. That’s great idea for a parish potluck, but a really terrible idea for legislative policy or for public health misinformation.

The debate appears headed for a political and fiscal quagmire, despite signs that much of the Manassas council would prefer to move past Aveni’s abortion fixation, and get on with the work of the city. At the January 23 land use meeting, the committee voted to recommend not a singling-out of abortion providers, but a long-needed comprehensive zoning overhaul. And at the February 3 full council meeting, the vote was 5-1 to accept community development staff’s recommendation for the comprehensive overhaul. Council members Way and Randolph wanted staff’s assurance that the part of the comprehensive overhaul that would answer the medical use definition question around clinics could be finished by the end of the calendar year, but they got what they needed, leaving Aveni standing alone.

Aveni, though, was visibly unhappy to lose the vote. And it seems that’s when he went into another activist huddle. A call went out among 40 Days For Life protesters to pack the public comment period of the next meeting, to insist that clinics get stricter regulations right now. A hundred anti-choice clinic protesters lined up on February 24 to speak for hours, in a sneak attack of half-truths and muddled comprehension of the issue at hand. Then Aveni attempted to call a vote on their demands: a unilateral do-over of the February 3 vote! Council member Randolph moved instead ­that the council have two weeks to mull it over. That brings us to next Monday’s council meeting—where it is crucial that pro-small-government, pro-fiscal-conservatism, pro-women, and pro-choice Virginians show up to tell them not to be intimidated by Aveni’s gang of latecomers.

Vice Mayor Harrover writes on his personal blog, “I’ve no love of abortion but this process was already in place.  It’s what the Council voted on last time around. … This [February 24] motion would appear to pre-judge the outcome of staff and legal work.  That’s got potential to cause some remarkable legal headaches.” And: “Amazing we can find money in the budget for this but not parks & rec, redevelopment or economic development.  We’re the only locality in NoVa that has none of these things.  Yay Us!” Plus, as political blogger Ben Tribbett points out, there’s very real potential for Fairfax’s hasty zoning changes targeting clinics to take that city’s whole political process hostage. This is what Aveni wants for Manassas. That, and to have the personal power to overrule the autonomous decision-making of pregnant people with the same kind of arrogant bully tantrum that he pulled in insisting that City Council re-do a vote until the results suit him.

One in three American women will have an abortion in her life: that’s 1.4 million women in Virginia alone. With just 18 clinics left in the state, many of those women have gone to, or will go to, the Manassas clinic for their abortion care.

There is no guarantee that the comprehensive zoning overhaul that we want will avoid a bad outcome for the Manassas clinic or any future Manassas clinic. But we know Aveni’s rush-job, piecemeal attack will be bad. A Special Use Permit puts any clinic one city council vote away from a shutdown. And if Aveni can airlift a crowd into a council meeting to demand a revote on a zoning proposal, what’s to stop him from doing the same with a clinic closing proposal­­?

Aveni doesn’t get to keep on making up the process as he goes along. Join me on Monday night in Manassas to say that six years of legislative harassment is enough.

Keep an anti-choice agenda out of Virginia’s budget & restore reproductive health care programs

You may have heard that the latest outrageous, disrespectful remark about women’s reproductive rights to stir up national ridicule and backlash came from Virginia’s own state Senator Steve Martin (R-Chesterfield). In a Facebook post dismissing a Valentine’s Day card he received from our Virginia Pro-Choice Coalition, in which we urged him to support access to the full range of reproductive health care services for Virginians, Sen. Martin referred to pregnant women as “hosts” for a child and otherwise showed just how little he gets what’s at stake. His post as a whole was another insight into how little respect and understanding anti-choice lawmakers like Senator Martin have for women’s reproductive lives and deeply personal decisions.

But current anti-choice attacks in Virginia’s General Assembly go beyond what politicians are saying — they’re also trying to push their agenda into law through the budget.

The version of Virginia’s two-year budget approved by the House of Delegates last week includes several amendments that push an anti-choice agenda and go after reproductive health care access, particularly for low-income Virginians. If passed, the House-approved budget amendments would:

  • Defund Planned Parenthood, blocking thousands of Virginians from receiving affordable preventative reproductive health care services like birth control and cancer screenings at their chosen provider (4-5.04 #3h)
  • Taking away coverage for abortion care for low-income, Medicaid-eligible pregnant women who are diagnosed with severe fetal anomalies, thereby taking away options from vulnerable families at a difficult time (4-5.04 #6h)
  • The budget even includes a laughable amendment from Delegate Bob Marshall to prevent Gov. McAuliffe from using executive action to repeal TRAP regulations – something the law doesn’t allow him to do anyway! (4-5.04 #4h)

Meanwhile, the House’s approved budget did not include several budget amendments passed by the Senate that would restore funding for programs that actually promote reproductive health care access for all Virginians, like:

  • Plan First, which provides family planning services for low-income people (301 #38s)
  • FAMIS MOMS, which is health coverage for low income pregnant women to ensure they can access prenatal and maternity care (301 #17s)
  • Marketplace Virginia, a common-sense compromise to close the Medicaid coverage gap and ensure that up to 250,000 Virginians have comprehensive, affordable health care (more info)
The budget now moves to a joint conference committee of House and Senate members who will decide what appears in the final budget. NARAL Pro-Choice Virginia and our coalition partners are  urging the conference committee to remove the House amendments that would restrict reproductive health care access, and instead restore funding to critical reproductive health safety-net programs and work to extend health care coverage to more Virignians.

Despite heroic efforts from pro-choice Delegates, dangerous budget amendments advance in House

Yesterday, the Virginia House of Delegate voted to approve three separate budget amendments attacking women’s health. 

Despite passionate speeches against these extreme measures from our pro-choice champions, a majority of Delegates voted to include amendments in the final house budget to defund Planned Parenthood and strip funding for low-income women who seek abortion when the fetus has been diagnosed with an incapacitating anomaly. The House even voted to approve a laughable amendment from Delegate Bob Marshall to prevent Gov. McAuliffe from using executive action to repeal TRAP regulations – something the law doesn’t allow him to do anyway!

Rational or not, it’s obvious that these anti-choice Delegates will stop at nothing to attack women’s health and rights. But even as we’re gearing up for the next fight, it’s important to honor some of our amazing pro-choice legislators who fought so hard against these dangerous measures. Click on the names below to thank our pro-choice champions on their facebook pages! 

First to fight back on the floor yesterday was Delegate Charniele Herring, who spoke against the budget amendment to defund Planned Parenthood in Virginia. As she explained, Planned Parenthood affiliates in Virginia provide thousands of women with critical medical care, including cancer screenings, birth control, and safe, legal abortion. “Attacking access to healthcare for women is unconscionable,” Del. Herring said after the vote.  “In the Republican quest to defund Planned Parenthood, they are trying to eliminate programs like cancer screenings by attacking this health care provider. Federal Courts have agreed that defunding qualified health care providers from providing services under Medicaid because they separately provide abortion services violates federal law.”

Next up was Delegate Eileen Filler-Corn, who stood to oppose a laughable amendment from Delegate Bob Marshall to prevent Gov. McAuliffe from using executive action to repeal burdensome clinic regulations (TRAP). Although Governor McAuliffe has no power to repeal TRAP with executive action anyway (so this amendment is essentially nonsense), Delegate Filler-Corn took the opportunity to speak about the importance of women’s health clinics in the state – many of whom are severely threatened by dangerous TRAP regulations. “This amendment is yet another targeted attack on women’s healthcare,” she stated. “Because of the onerous and medically unnecessary TRAP restrictions approved by our body in 2011, thousands of women in the Commonwealth have seen their only option for high-quality, low-cost access to life-saving screenings and health care advice in their community close.”

Last but not least, Delegate Jennifer McClellan took to the floor yesterday to share the heart-wrenching story of a Virginia woman whose pregnancy went tragically wrong when the fetus was diagnosed with incapacitating health complications. When this woman and her husband made the difficult, personal decision to seek abortion, they were lucky enough to be able to afford it.  But as Delegate McClellan pointed out,  budget amendment 4-5.04 #6h would strip funding for abortion for low-income women facing similar tragic situations – and  leave poor women with virtually zero options. “What this amendment does is say that if you are in this tragic situation and you have private insurance, or you have money, you can do what needs to be done,” she said.  “If you are poor – if you are poor – you’re on your own. Ladies and gentleman this is one of the cruelest budget amendments I have ever seen.” 

After the vote yesterday,  pro-choice champion Senator Donald McEachin added this: “I am incredibly disappointed and dismayed that House Republicans voted to defund cancer screenings and preventative care for women across the Commonwealth. You can be sure that the fight to protect women’s health and health care for all Virginians is not over.”

We agree — this fight is far from over. We will be in touch soon with ways to take action against these dangerous amendments, but in the meantime please contact these pro-choice legislators & thank them for their tireless work! To stay updated on these budget amendments as they advance,  sign up for email alerts,  like us on Facebook, or follow us on Twitter! You can even receive breaking news to your cell phone by texting VACHOICE to 30644!

Critical reproductive rights bills will be heard WEDNESDAY in VA House!

This is a HUGE week for reproductive health in Virginia – and we need your help now!

Wednesday afternoon all of our pro-choice bills in the House, including proposals to repeal mandatory ultrasound legislation and protect birth control in Virginia code, will be heard in the Courts and Justice subcommittee on Constitutional Law. In addition, the subcommittee will consider HB 98, Del. Bob Marshall’s dangerous anti-choice attempt to threaten abortion providers with criminal penalties.

Please contact members of the subcommittee right now and tell them to stand for women’s health! 

Members of the Courts & Justice Subcommittee on Constitutional Law:

Support HB 1056, HB546 and HB 547 to repeal Virginia’s mandatory ultrasound law:

  • Health care decisions should be between a woman, her family, and her doctor, NOT politicians.
  • Requiring an ultrasound before abortion is about political interference, not informed consent. Information should not be provided with the intent or result of shaming, judging, or making a woman change her mind.
  • We may not all feel the same way about abortion, but we can agree that these are personal, private decisions between a woman, her family, her faith, and her doctor. Women don’t turn to politicians for advice about mammograms, prenatal care, or cancer treatments, and politicians should not interfere in this private medical decision.

Oppose HB 98, an abortion ban that imposes criminal penalties on physicians for knowing a woman’s intentions to terminate a pregnancy on the basis of sex: 

  • This bill undermines the doctor-patient relationship, does nothing to address sex discrimination and gender-based violence, and undermines a woman’s private medical decision making.
  • This bill purports to be about gender equality, but in fact it is a thinly veiled attempt to restrict a woman’s access to abortion care. This bill requires doctors and health care providers to specifically monitor the reasons women get abortions. Even if we disagree about abortion, we should all be able to agree that a woman’s personal and lawful health care decisions should not be singled out to be degraded, insulted, and exploited as a political tool.
  • By regulating a pregnant woman’s motives for seeking an abortion and exposing the doctor to litigation, this legislation places physicians in an untenable position, threatening to undermine the doctor-patient relationship.

Thank you for taking action!

Senate power shift is HUGE win for women’s health

GREAT news from Richmond! 

Earlier this week, Lynwood Lewis officially defeated his anti-choice opponent to become the next Senator from the Eastern Shore.  With his swearing in yesterday, Sen. Lewis and newly-elected  Sen. Jennifer Wexton give Democrats 20 votes in the evenly divided Virginia Senate  - with pro-choice champion LG Ralph Northam as the tie-breaking vote!

Because of these changes, Democrats were able to officially take control of the Virginia Senate yesterday afternoon. And one of their first orders of business was to reorganize the membership of Senate committees, including the critically important Senate Education & Health committee. The Senate Education and Health committee is responsible  for hearing almost all choice-related legislation, and until yesterday the committee had a strong anti-choice majority.  But not anymore. 

Starting today, the Education & Health committee has a significant pro-choice majority — and has added three new amazing Senators who have long stood for women’s health and rights!  Here are the new pro-choice Senators on the Education & Health committee: 

Sen. Barbara Favola

Sen. Barbara Favola

Sen. Favola is a fierce advocate for women’s health who has received a 100% rating on our scorecard since elected to office. Sen. Favola is also the Senate chair of the Reproductive Health Care Caucus.

Sen. Linda “Toddy” Puller

Sen. Puller is a steadfast pro-choice champion representing parts of Fairfax and Prince William County. Since her election in 2000, Puller has consistently received a 100% pro-choice rating from NARAL Pro-Choice Virginia.

Sen. John Edwards

Sen. Edwards represents parts of Roanoke and Blacksburg cities in Southwestern VA, and like his colleagues above has a 100% score from NARAL Pro-Choice Virginia.  Sen. Edwards was pulled off this critical committee when Republicans took power over the Senate in 2012,  and we’re thrilled to welcome him back!

The new make-up of the Senate Education & Health committee – as well as it’s new 100% pro-choice Chair Sen. Louise Lucas – is a HUGE victory for women’s health. Instead of seeing critical bills  defeated by anti-choice extremists in committee, women’s health advocates will now have our best shot in years to advance positive, proactive legislation that will move Virginia forward.  And with a pro-choice majority on the Ed & Health committee, we will be better able to stop extreme anti-choice bills before they ever reach the Senate floor!

We’re thrilled to bring you this good news from the Capitol – and we’ll continue updating you on important choice-related activity as it occurs. For up-to-the-minute updates, join our Legislative Rapid Response Team or sign up for VA Choice Texts! 

BREAKING: Help repeal VA mandatory ultrasound law NOW!

Last night, pro-choice Virginians won a huge victory when Lynwood Lewis was officially declared the next state Senator from District 6. With this narrow win, Democrats are poised to possibly take control over the Virginia senate with a 20-20 split and pro-choice champion Ralph Northam as the tie-breaking vote!

Unfortunately, extreme anti-choice politicians will stop at nothing to continue their attacks on Virginians’ health and rights.  While Democrats appear ready to take power over the Senate, a small GOP-controlled subcommittee will attempt one last attack on women’s health — defeating a pro-choice bill to repeal the mandatory ultrasound law!

This is nothing but a sneaky attempt to kill critical pro-choice legislation behind closed doors – and possibly right before power shifts. We need your help RIGHT NOW to fight back: Contact Sen. Newman (Chairman of the Health Care Subcommittee) and tell him to take S.B 617 off of today’s agenda!

Talking points: 

  •  S.B 617  is a common-sense bill to repeal Virginia’s invasive and insulting mandatory ultrasound ban and improve access to healthcare for thousands of women and families.  If passed, SB 617  would return private medical decisions back to patients and doctors – and get politicians out of Virginians’ personal healthcare choices.
  • With the recount results yesterday, it appears that Democrats are poised to take Senate power.  This bill should be given a full hearing by our rightfully elected officials – not sneakily buried behind closed doors.
  • I will be watching closely to see if you act in favor of women’s health and fair government — or if you continue to play games with our basic health and rights. 

In case Sen. Newman refuses to take the bill off the the agenda today, it is critical that we contact other subcommittee members and urge them to support SB 617. Tell these subcommittee members to support SB 617 and repeal Virginia’s ultrasound law now:

Talking points: 

  • We may not all feel the same way about abortion, but we can agree that these are personal, private decisions between a woman, her family, her faith, and her doctor. Abortion is a deeply personal and often complex decision for a woman. You can’t make that decision for someone else.
  • Requiring an ultrasound before abortion is about political interference, not informed consent. Information should not be provided with the intent or result of shaming, judging, or making a woman change her mind.
  • Women don’t turn to politicians for advice about mammograms, prenatal care, or cancer treatments. Politicians should not be involved in a woman’s personal medical decisions about her pregnancy.

Thank you so much for taking action! 

A Farewell Post

By: Marieke van Rijn, Advocacy and Communications Intern

As my semester interning for NARAL Pro-Choice Virginia is coming to an end today, I wanted to write a post to reflect on my time here.

This was quite the semester to work with NARAL Pro-Choice Virginia! I must admit that before this semester I did not pay too close attention to local and statewide politics. After knocking on over 200 doors, writing profiles for pro-choice House of Delegates candidates, I learned a lot about the value of mobilizing a community and electing pro-choice candidates to the local government. I’m really thankful for being able to take part in some of the efforts that helped elect pro-choice candidates on the statewide ballot and in the General Assembly.

Along with working on the election, I also helped with some research on Crisis Pregnancy Centers and am currently helping with our latest campaign, #hope4prochoiceva. I have learned a lot in my time here, and though I am leaving, this will not be the end of my involvement with NARAL Pro-Choice Virginia! I hope to continue the fight for prioritizing women’s reproductive rights over politics and to help Virginia become the pro-choice commonwealth it should be.

Thank you all for reading! I’ll see you guys at the next NARAL Pro-Choice Virginia event!

Your Priorities versus Their Priorities

Over the past few days, pro-choice activists from across the Commonwealth have taken the time to share their top priorities for pro-choice Virginia. We found that Virginians are concerned with a range of reproductive issues, from repealing TRAP regulations and mandatory ultrasounds to ensuring low-income women have access to health-care.

Pro-choice Virginia has spoken out about their priorities, but extreme anti-choice politicians in the Commonwealth are still planning to follow their own agenda. Delegate Bob Marshall (R-Manassas) is already continuing his crusade against the women of Virginia- this time by introducing legislation to restrict birth control!

Delegate Bob Marshall has proposed three bills (H.B. 18, H.B. 19, H.B. 20), which if passed, would allow your boss to refuse to cover your birth control and sterilization procedures based on their own personal beliefs. After the markedly pro-choice election in November, this would be a HUGE step backward for women and families in Virginia. We need to do everything we can to fight back against these bills.

Over the next seven weeks we will be busy researching upcoming legislation, meeting with lawmakers, talking to the media, and doing all we can to fight for your pro-choice priorities. We’re going to need your help to do all of this and make choice a reality for all Virginians!

Your contribution of $10, $25 or whatever you can give today will help us start working now to fight anti-choice legislation.