The Militant (logo)  

Vol. 76/No. 11      March 19, 2012

(front page)
Virginia defenders of abortion
rights win round, keep fighting
AP Photo/Richmond Times-Dispatch, Eva Russo
Defenders of women’s right to choose abortion rally at Virginia State Capitol March 3. Thirty protesters who were arrested on Capitol steps are fighting “trespassing” charges.

Some 1,000 protestors marched through downtown Richmond and rallied at the Virginia State Capitol March 3 to “demand that the legislative attacks on abortion, contraceptives, and women’s rights in general stop immediately.” The action was the latest in a series of protests against bills in the state legislature aimed at curtailing women’s right to choose abortion. The demonstrations have been successful in pushing back a number of the attacks.

A so-called “Personhood” bill, which would declare the cells formed immediately after fertilization as a human being with full legal rights, has been shelved. Also taken off the table were bills that would have banned abortions after 20 weeks and cut off state funding for women lacking money for an abortion if their fetus was found to be “grossly deformed.”

A bill that would have required women seeking abortion to undergo an ultrasound to see a clear image of the fetus, which in most cases would have meant an invasive procedure, was dumped. It was replaced with a bill, awaiting the governor’s signature, that requires an external ultrasound.

“We sent the clear message, to the legislators and Governor McDonnell, that we will not accept these laws now, next year, or ever,” said Speak Loud with Silence, which organized the series of demonstrations, in a statement after the march. “If they continue this assault on women’s rights, they will be met with an even stronger, wiser and more organized force.”

The demonstration was met by a show of force by Capitol and Virginia State Police, many in riot gear.

Cops moved in to try to push the protesters off the Capitol steps. About 40 sat down, refusing to leave, and 30 were arrested. They were detained in buses, with their hands cuffed behind their backs, for up to seven hours and denied food and water, according to Sarah Okolita, one of the organizers of Speak Loud with Silence.

“The demonstration was largely successful,” Okolita told the Militant. “However, the treatment of the women who were arrested was unnecessary and outrageous.

“The bills we have pushed back were all tabled until next year,” she added. “So we are looking forward to an ongoing fight.”  
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