Many thanks to Amber, our intern, for writing this post!
While we were down in Richmond for the Senate Health and Education hearings on anti-choice House bills HB 334, HB 393, and HB 1042 (none of which will be heard in the full Senate this year, thank you Senate Health and Education!!) and the Senate Transportation committee hearing on the Trust Women Respect Choice license plate, we decided to pay Delegate Gilbert a visit.
You may remember him as the Delegate in the House who twice introduced amendments to the pro-choice license plates that change their funding from Planned Parenthood’s trusted prevention services—including breast and cervical cancer screenings, STI and pregnancy prevention—to an empty, unused government fund called the Pregnant Woman Support Fund. More over, the plate’s funds were intended for prevention. It also appears that anti-choice, medically inaccurate, crisis pregnancy centers can apply for grants from this fund. Pro-Choice money going to anti-women, anti-truth, anti-choice fake clinics? No way!
We were so outraged at Delegate Gilbert’s decision to deny Virginians the choice of where to send their own money that we decided to let him know. Since his amendment was first introduced, many of you have been donating to NARAL Pro-Choice Virginia in Delegate Gilbert’s ‘honor.’
We’ve been sending Delegate Gilbert a thank you letter for each donation we receive, and have now sent him over 40 letters and raised over $4,500! But we wanted to step it up when he introduced the same amendment a second time to we decided to call him personally to thank him. However, Delegate Gilbert’s legislative aide would not speak with us by phone.
Since we were in Richmond, we decided to stop by and see if we could have an in-person eart to heart conversation. We took a big group of allies—NARAL Virginia Staff, Planned Parenthood Staff, interns from both organizations, a seminary student, a medical student, and eleven letters from dedicated choice activists.
Delegate Gilbert was outside his office when we arrived and spoke to us there. After giving him the letters and updating him on the total amount of donations we’ve received thanks to him ($4,503 and counting!), he asked us if he could count these donations as tax deductible. We politely said ‘no,’ and then asked him why he amended the funding stream of the plates, twice! He tried to turn it around on us, saying that pro-choicers don’t “trust women” because we fight anti-choicer’s so-called ‘informed consent laws.’
Delegate Gilbert didn’t seem inclined to acknowledge the outdated, cherry-picked, and flat-out medically inaccurate information these ‘informed consent’ bills force providers to share. The sad truth is, this didn’t surprise us: we know that the majority of the House is anti-choice. What we don’t know is why they continue to fight prevention that would reduce unintended pregnancy—and by extension, abortion—throughout the Commonwealth. We asked Delegate Gilbert why he chose to defund a funding stream dedicated to prevention, something we believe that both sides of the abortion debate should be able to work together on.
And even more sadly, Delegate Gilbert’s answer had nothing to with preventing unintended pregnancy, reducing the need for abortion, or saving lives through early detection of cancer or sexually transmitted infections. He simply doesn’t want any money—even money from private donors—going to Planned Parenthood.
And as of this blog post, we’re sending him another five thank you letters!