Last Tuesday, NARAL Pro-Choice Virginia celebrated our 15 years of work to protect and advance reproductive freedom in Virginia and honored those who have made an outstanding impact on our mission at the 7th annual Power of Choice Gala.
The event brought together over 200 pro-choice activists and supporters to celebrate the progress we’ve made in the Commonwealth and hear from Governor Terry McAuliffe, Lieutenant Governor Ralph Northam, and Attorney General Mark Herring.
After a lively reception and silent auction, executive director Tarina Keene kicked things off by looking back at NARAL Pro-Choice Virginia’s first fifteen years and promising that no matter what the next fifteen throws at us, “we will persist.”
We surprised Governor McAuliffe with the inaugural “Brick Wall” award for honoring his campaign promise to be a brick wall for women’s health. In his four years as governor, McAuliffe has repeatedly vetoed anti-reproductive health measures designed to shame women and limit access. We’re grateful for his tireless support and work to protect women’s rights.
We also honored two individuals who have gone above and beyond in their leadership for reproductive rights and health care access in Virginia.
Michelle Kinsey Bruns received our Outstanding Advocate for Choice award and gave a beautiful speech about the state of reproductive health and our duty as advocates to fight silence.
“This culture change is a big job. Especially now, in a time of attacks on the rights, the dignity, and the futures not only of pregnant women, but of people of color, immigrants, transgender people, religious minorities, the sick, the poor, the disabled.
I’m asking you to speak up. Speak out. Live out loud the values we are here to celebrate tonight. Even when it’s uncomfortable. Especially if it’s uncomfortable. Polite dinner-party manners are a luxury that we in this movement can no longer afford.”
Jim Edmondson took home the Aggie Wolf Defender of Choice award. 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.
To close out an amazing night, Attorney General Mark Herring and Lieutenant Governor Ralph Northam brought down the house with their speeches. AG Herring, running for reelection in November, received loud applause for his commitment to speed up testing of untested rape kits across the Commonwealth. LG Ralph Northam, running in the democratic primary for governor of Virginia, promised to continue Governor McAuliffe’s legacy as a brick wall for women’s health in Richmond. They both reaffirmed their commitment protecting and expanding reproductive rights and access across the Commonwealth.
Our 2017 Power of Choice Gala reaffirmed the strength and passion of reproductive rights activists in Virginia. Our fight is huge and won’t end anytime soon but your joy, enthusiasm, and support keeps us going day after day, year after year.