By guest blogger Hannah
I’ll admit, when NARAL Pro-Choice Virginia put out the announcement that the delegates from Prince William County and surrounding areas were hosting a town hall meeting, I anticipated a scene straight from the TV show Parks and Recreation. I imagined being surrounded by concerned voters – all of whom would voice concerns about the community to benevolent and good-hearted, if wonky representatives. (And if the delegates looked like actor Adam Scott, so much the better.)
To my dismay, the town hall felt far less “warm and fuzzy” than I anticipated. Don’t get me wrong – voters came out to speak their minds. From funding for public education to the importance of alternative fuel choices, to taxes that would allow for better/more roads, the residents who spoke did so respectfully, carefully, with researched facts to back up their statements and with stories “from the trenches” as one teacher phrased it, to humanize their statistics.
However, when the political policy in question turned to Del. Bob Marshall’s “Personhood” bill (HB 1), a piece of legislation extremely similar to the bill recently voted down in Mississippi, which moves to give zygotes the same rights/responsibilities/status as a post-partum person, the delegates became visibly uncomfortable. While constituents provided the policy-makers with facts and their own opinions about the destructive legislation, the delegates alternated between shifting in their seats and appearing visibly bored or disinterested.
It was clear that the delegates were NOT listening.
Community members appealed to these men with reasoning from a variety of perspectives:
- In this time of economic uncertainty, when our community still lacks jobs, adequate housing and crucial public services, it is LUDICROUS for the first proposed bill of the year to focus on the rights of a zygote rather than economic development and stimulation.
- The “personhood” bill has many destructive unintended political consequences, including restriction of fertility treatments for families who are not able to become pregnant on their own, access to crucial preventative health care for women and their families, and important stem cell research and scientific advancement opportunities for the region.
- HB 1 is a blatant attack on a woman’s privacy, on her health and the health of her family. It will not affect the number of women who have an abortion, just make the procedure more difficult to access.
- This legislation was defeated in Mississippi and other places for a reason. It is bad policy. You can still identify with the “pro-life” movement and NOT support this bill.
And yet, in their final remarks responding to voters’ concerns, Delegate Bob Marshall and his colleagues (none of whom have ever been pregnant or been in a position to make choices about the status of their uterus) disregarded all these points, stubbornly sticking to non-science based, generally misinformed and sometimes offensive rhetoric. As a fan of the democratic system and a Virginia voter, this interaction – like a bad scene from a TV show where powerful adults act like moody teenagers – was truly disheartening. It is terrifying that some local and state representatives do not have even the common courtesy to listen to constituents, to listen to facts, to look beyond their own personal agendas at the negative implications for this piece of legislation.
So what should we do?
Well – I don’t plan to shut up about my experience. I am a fully developed, multi-celled, voter-registration-holding person. And even if Delegate Bob Marshall believes that zygotes deserve more of his attention than I do, I will fight to make sure my voice and the voices of other human beings in Virginia are not just heard, but listened to.
Parks and Recreation fantasies aside, this is a scene where we can all play a part! Learn more about how you can get involved at NARAL Pro-Choice Virginia’s website.