By Nicole Linder, Spring 2015 Advocacy & Communications Intern. Connect with Nicole at @NALinder or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Only two months into 2015, pro-choice activists in Virginia and across the country have already fought back against record breaking number of anti-abortion bills. In fact, by the first week of February, state legislatures across the country had already introduced over 100 bills designed to restrict access to safe, legal abortion!
In Virginia, we saw our fair share of measures to shame women and attack reproductive rights. The Commonwealth was one of 14 different states to introduce a 20-week abortion ban – a cruel and dangerous measure that poses a serious threat to women’s health, ignores women’s health needs and individual circumstances, and seeks to ban abortions with only the most narrow of exceptions. You can read the full text of HB 2321, Virginia’s 20-week abortion ban, here.
Fortunately, pro-choice activists across Virginia stood with us to defeat HB 2321 and #StopTheBans here in the Commonwealth – and we cannot thank you enough!
Here’s how YOU helped us #StopTheBans in VA:
In the midst of phone banking on our 2015 Day of Action (celebrating the 42nd anniversary of Roe v. Wade), we were outraged to learn that a dangerous 20-week abortion ban bill had been introduced in the Virginia House of Delegates. As if introducing the bill on the anniversary of Roe v. Wade wasn’t enough, the extreme language of HB 2321 would have made any abortion after 20-week a felony offense, with zero exception for severe fetal anomalies or for survivors of rape or incest. In fact, the bill was strikingly similar to a federal 20-week ban that had been defeated the same day because it was so extreme!
We were seriously alarmed – and NARAL Pro-Choice Virginia immediately took action to fight back. That night we alerted our activists, began contacting legislators, and started an intensive campaign to #StopTheBans in our state.
The response was amazing.
Virginia Senators and Delegates received over 1,220 emails urging them to oppose the 20-week abortion ban, with almost 250 of those emails generated through Facebook alone! Our supporters made approximately 500 calls to activists in target legislative districts, and we generated over 50 calls from constituents to critical Delegates on the House Constitutional Law subcommittee (which eventually heard the bill).
Our dedicated activists also submitted 5 letters to the editor at various newspapers detailing the flaws in the bill, it’s dangerous impacts, and the need for Virginia lawmakers to trust women in making their own personal, private medical decisions. And when the House Courts Subcommittee on Constitutional Law finally convened to hear HB 2321 on February 6th, pro-choice supporters filled the committee room, ready to speak out against the dangerous legislation.
Five activists were present to represent and share the stories of Virginia women who sought later abortions. Four pro-choice doctors prepared testimony opposing the abortion ban and two brave Virginia women were present to share their personal late abortion stories. We cannot thank you enough for joining us!
Thankfully, all of our hard work paid off. After intense criticism from members of the House subcommittee HB 2321 was withdrawn. It was official: with the help of our supporters, activists, and brave citizens like YOU, we were able to #StopTheBans in Virginia!
Unfortunately, we know the battle is far from over. By the time it was withdrawn, over 35 Virginia lawmakers had signed onto the ban – far, far too many. What’s worse, the bill’s sponsor Delegate LaRock has made it clear that he will bring the legislation up again next year. And with anti-choice legislators still dominating the House and Senate, it is critical that we remain vigilant.
Again, we want to thank you for all you did to help us #StopTheBans in Virginia. We will not stop fighting for women’s health and rights – and we’re so proud to have you with us.