At this year’s Power of Choice event, we’ll be celebrating NARAL Pro-Choice Virginia’s 15th anniversary year, hearing from all three of our pro-choice statewide elected officials, and coming together to support the hard work we have ahead for reproductive freedom!We also take this chance each year to recognize individuals who have gone above and beyond in their leadership for reproductive rights and health care access in Virginia and contributed to our mission. This year, we’re excited to honor two people who played important roles in our victory of rolling back Virginia’s targeted restrictions on abortion providers and “scrapping TRAP”!
The Aggie Wolf Defender of Choice Award: Jim Edmondson
Our annual Defender of Choice Award recognizes an elected official or other policymaker who has made an impact on our work for policies that protect and support reproductive freedom. Over the past six years, Jim Edmondson has done just that in the fight against targeted regulations on abortion providers (TRAP) designed to cut off safe, legal abortion access for Virginia women.
In 2004, Governor Tim Kaine appointed longtime Virginian and real estate developer Jim Edmondson as a consumer representative member to the state Board of Health. Since then, Jim has become a fierce defender of Virginia women’s access to high-quality, affordable reproductive health care.
In 2011, the General Assembly passed a sneak-attack amendment (on a bill about nursing home regulation) that required all facilities providing 5 or more first-trimester abortions a month to be regulated as a category of hospital. In his role as a Board of Health member, Jim asked tough questions and pushed back against the medically-irrelevant restrictions put forth by the administration of Governor Bob McDonnell. After the Board of Health originally voted to at least “grandfather-in” existing facilities from some burdensome structural requirements in June 2013, they faced a threat from then-Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli, who said he would not defend them from a lawsuit sure to come from anti-abortion groups unless they approved the stricter TRAP regulations. The rest of the board backed down, but Jim was one of two board members who took a stand and voted against the original TRAP regulations passed by the board in 2013.
After Governor McAuliffe took office in 2014, he instituted a regulatory review that opened the TRAP rules back up. Back on the board, Jim was an instrumental part of the review and amendment process that led to the roll-back of the most egregious, medically-irrelevant, unconstitutional restrictions on providers in October 2016. We’re thrilled to recognize Jim’s years-long dedication to this regulatory battle and his efforts to ensure abortion regulations are based on medicine and women’s health, not on an agenda to cut off access.
The Outstanding Advocate for Choice Award: Michelle Kinsey Bruns
If you’ve gone to reproductive rights demonstrations or other events in Virginia or the DC Metro area in recent years, you’ve probably seen Michelle Kinsey Bruns (often accompanied by her “Huskies for Choice” protest dog Tashi!). Online, you may know her as @ClinicEscort, or you may have read about her telling her abortion story to a train car full of teens brought in for the anti-choice “March for Life” or seen her expose the epidemic of clinic violence through her #is100enough tweetstorm after the Colorado Springs Planned Parenthood shooting in 2015.
Michelle is a tireless advocate for safety and privacy of abortion clinic patients and staff. She has lent her compassion as a clinic escort and her fierce commitment as a clinic defender to counter anti-choice protestors in nine states.
We at NARAL Pro-Choice Virginia know Michelle as the dedicated board chair of our Foundation side from 2014-2016, a time when our organization grew by leaps and bounds and made a big difference for abortion access in the Commonwealth with her support and leadership.
While our other awardee Jim Edmondson was taking a stand against TRAP regulations from inside the Board of Health, Michelle was there too: she regularly showed up in Richmond to testify before the Board, often getting in line as early as 3 a.m. She’s also made the trip to Richmond to lobby with legislators and helped raise awareness of our work.
While she recently moved across the river to Maryland, Michelle continues to fight for reproductive rights, health, and justice and support NARAL Pro-Choice Virginia’s work. We’re excited to recognize her years of work and impact as an activist this year!
Join us Tuesday, May 23 in Arlington as we honor Jim and Michelle and hear from our special guests Governor Terry McAuliffe, Lieutenant Governor Ralph Northam, and Attorney General Mark Herring! Tickets available now.