More than a thousand protest against ‘personhood,’ ultrasound bills at VA Capitol

Posted at 3:27 PM, Feb 20, 2012
and last updated 2012-02-23 15:08:27-05

RICHMOND, Va. (WTVR) - Hundreds and hundreds of people took part in a silent protest Monday morning at the Virginia State Capitol in Richmond. The group who organized the protest, Speak Loudly with Silence, said that the final count was more than 1,000; mostly women, but men and children also.

The intent was to protest bills that the organizer said, on their Facebook page, are oppressive to women and reproductive rights.

"I don't like the direction in which Virginia is moving," said Ann Hardy, who attended with her fiancee." The silence that keenly heavied the air paralled what Hardy considers a lack of dialogue about the issue.

"It does appear that there is a soundproof bubble around this General Assembly," said Hardy. "That they really aren't listening to the voices of Virginia."

Her fiancee Chip Atkins viewed the protests as a reaction to very "serious issues." "It's part of the exercise, to get people to start paying attention."

"They're not listening to their constituents...," said Hardy, indicating that voters are paying attention to the outcome.

When asked about the repercussions of the bill's passage, Sue Martin, a protester, said that she anticipates a lot of anger from women. "And I anticipate that come election time we'll make our voices heard yet again."

The bills protested are ones that would outlaw abortion and the morning after pill in Virginia, as well as the mandatory vaginal ultrasound procedure ( HB 261 and SB 484).

House Bill 1 [Read More], introduced by Del. Bob Marshall (R - Prince William County), would provide that unborn children "enjoy all the rights, privileges, and immunities available to other persons, citizens and residents of the Commonwealth," at every stage of development.

This is known as the "Personhood bill."

House Bill 1 has passed the Virginia House of Delegates.

Additional bills mentioned by the group are HB 62, which the group said if passed would withdraw authorization for Medicaid funding for termination of pregnancy for eligible women whose pregnancies have been found to be complicated by serious fetal anomalies.

The group was also in protest of HB 1285 and SB 637, which they said "prohibits abortion after 20 weeks gestation unless, in reasonable medical judgment, the mother's life is at risk or the mother is at risk of substantial and irreversible physical impairment of a major bodily function."

Also, the group protest targeted HB 464 and SB 496, two bill that the protest group said "creates the state's health care exchange under the federal Affordable Care Act but prohibits the sale of insurance coverage for abortions, except when the pregnancy endangers the mother's life or is the result of rape or incest."

Prior to Monday's protest, Delegate Marshall said he stood by the legislation he drafted. He said the bill simply defined life as starting at conception.

"I've got to deal with all these side shows with these people, who just never want to get to the plain fact that there's a very simple thing I want to do, to recognize the unborn as being a human being before the law. That's all," Del. Marshall said.

Del. Marshall said those who oppose the bill are wrong about its intent.

"It doesn't criminalize abortion, it doesn't affect birth control, and they can't point to one case where it's ever been done that way," he said.

Del. Marshall's bill must next pass a vote in the state Senate before moving ahead to the governor's desk to be signed into law.

State Senator Steve Martin told CBS 6 Sam Brock the personhood bill would likely be heard in his committee of Thursday. Sen. Martin is the chairman of the Senate Health and Education committee.