Yesterday, NARAL Pro-Choice Virginia held our second annual “Power of Choice” event, celebrating the organizations tenth anniversary year and our ongoing fight to defend reproductive freedom in Virginia.
The event was held at the beautiful Waterview Conference Center, located on the 24th floor at the edge of Rosslyn and the Potomac River. The panoramic view of Washington was breathtaking and provided the perfect backdrop.
Guests started to arrive around 7:00 and the hall quickly filled with NARAL Pro-Choice Virginia members and supporters, local pro-choice activists and leaders, and pro-choice Virginia lawmakers mingling, sampling hors d’oeuvres and drinks while looking over fantastic items up for silent auction.
Our Executive Director Tarina Keene welcomed the enthusiastic crowd, thanking NARAL Pro-Choice Virginia’s board, our League of Young Leaders (LoYL) members, the event’s sponsors, and the many elected officials in the room. She then gave a brief walk through the work we have been doing and our recent fights, challenges, and victories. As she noted, this summer marks NARAL Pro-Choice Virginia’s tenth anniversary, but the past twelve months have been among the busiest in our organization’s history.
The work that has garnered perhaps the most national attention was our fight against anti-choice bills during this year’s General Assembly session, including the failed “personhood for zygotes” bill and mandatory ultrasound bill that was passed by the General Assembly and signed by Governor McDonnell despite public outrage from across the Commonwealth and the nation. Tarina recounted how NARAL Pro-Choice Virginia’s work getting out the facts about the ultrasound bill and its insulting anti-choice intent got many more Virginians paying attention and taking action.
Tarina also discussed our work over the past year leading the Virginia Coalition to Protect Women’s Health to address the drastic impact that proposed targeted regulations on abortion providers (TRAP) could have on abortion access in Virginia. Just last week following our activism and advocacy, the Virginia Board of Health took action to stand up for women’s health– and against Attorney General Cuccinelli’s political agenda – by voting to grandfather-in existing clinics from having to reconstruct their facilities to meet hospital-level structural standards.
Then it was time to present the evening’s awards: the “Aggie Wolf Defender of Choice Award” and “Outstanding Advocate for Choice.” Sasha Pudelski, vice-chair of the NARAL Pro-Choice Virginia Board, introduced Arlington resident Aggie Wolf, whose sixty years of tireless pro-choice activism continue to inspire us and after whom the award is named. Tarina and Aggie then presented the Defender of Choice Award to Delegate Charniele Herring of Alexandria, recognizing the endless hours Del. Herring has spent leading the charge against anti-choice bills in the House of Delegates over the past several years. Delegate Herring said she was “overwhelmed by the support.”
This year’s Outstanding Advocate for Choice Award then went to one of NARAL Pro-Choice Virginia’s most dedicated volunteers and activists, Christie Brooks of Fredericksburg. Tarina recounted all that Christie has done over the past few years, particularly sharing her own personal story of choosing abortion under tragic circumstances with General Assembly members. Her powerful testimony has helped to sway minds and votes on legislation that would restrict abortion rights, such as H.B. 62 this year that would have ended health care coverage for Medicaid-eligible women choosing abortion in cases of severe fetal anomaly.
Finally, Angela Guzman, NARAL Pro-Choice Virginia’s Board Chair, introduced the night’s special guest speaker, Shelby Knox. Knox became nationally known as the subject of the critically-acclaimed 2005 documentary The Education of Shelby Knox, which chronicled her activism for comprehensive sex education as a high school student in Lubbock, TX. She is currently the Director of Organizing, Women’s Rights at Change.org, and a leading voice on new generations of women’s rights advocates and the future of the reproductive rights and justice movement.
Shelby talked about her experiences growing up in Texas, and taking a nice shot at the Virginia General Assembly and Gov. Bob McDonnell, thanked Virginia for making Texas look a little sane this past year. (Though she noted that while Virginia’s mandatory ultrasound bill ultimately did not require transvaginal ultrasounds after the Governor backed down, Texas actually recently implemented a mandatory ultrasound law that does!) Shelby spoke eloquently about what drives her to work for reproductive justice and on the need to build more youth leadership and involvement in the pro-choice movement, noting at one point, “Where are the young feminists? We are right here in this room.” Shelby’s remarks energized the crowd and reminded them that the fight for reproductive freedom and justice is ongoing and relies on their action!
All in all, last night was a fantastic event and a great success. Special thanks go out to all our event sponsors, host committee, volunteers and guests who came out to celebrate the “Power of Choice” and support our ongoing fight to defend it!
Platinum Level: Mary Jane Gallagher
Gold Level: Arlington House Delegation (Delegate Bob Brink, Delegate David Englin, Delegate Patrick Hope, Delegate Alfonso Lopez) ● Barbara Burgess ● “Christie’s Invisible Friends” sponsoring in honor of Christie Brooks ● Debbie Levin Jardot ● Delegate Jennifer McClellan ● Ron Rosenblith & Page Gardner ● Delegate David Toscano ● Integrated Direct Marketing ● Women of the Sorenson Class of ’06 (Debby Allen, Sindy Benavides, Missy Gould, Hon. Margi Vanderhye)
Silver Level: Arlington Young Democrats Women’s Caucus ● Allen Blume ● Megan Contakes ● Pat Crusenberry ● Carol Dabbs ● DC Abortion Fund ● Nancy DiPaolo ● Amy Eckert ● Senator Barbara Favola ● Bill & Elizabeth Fogarty ● Carol Fontein ● H&W Printing ● Misty Jones ● Jennifer Lassiter ● Delegate Mark Keam ● Karin Kirchoff & Travis Johnson ● Delegate Kaye Kory ● Hon. Rob Krupicka ● League of Women Voters of Virginia ● Out of the Box Bakery ● Planned Parenthood Advocates of Virginia ● Public Interest Communications ● Delegate Mark Sickles ● Virginia NOW
Host Committee: Aida Carini ● Angela Guzman ● Liz Howard ● Jennifer Lassiter ● Jamie Lockhart ● Samantha Sewell ● Jennifer Stark ● Sasha Pudelski