Women’s Strike Force looking to back pro-choice candidates

Posted at 8:22 PM, Feb 29, 2012
and last updated 2012-03-01 01:20:48-05

RICHMOND, Va. (WTVR)--House Bill 462, the so-called ultrasound abortion bill, divided the House and Senate, placed Virginia's General Assembly in the national spotlight, and has now spawned a political action committee that wants to oust backers of the abortion legislation.

Women's Strike Force is a bipartisan pro-choice organization started by Virginia's Leslie Byrne, the first woman elected to the U.S. House of Representatives from Virginia.

The PAC formed on Monday and reportedly raised $1,600 in its first hour.  The group will be looking for candidates to support who yield influence to match the PAC’s agenda. A spokesperson told the Huffington Post that they hope to remove several women from office who sponsored abortion legislation.

"The Strike Force was motivated by the assault on women's right's in the 2012 General Assembly session," Katherine Waddell, one of the group's members, told CBS 6. "Republicans used to be a little more subtle."

"We've known that they were moving in that direction for a number of years, but this year they were just one right after another," she added.

Waddell, a former representative to the Virginia House of Delegates, said she was a Republican for many years, but decided to run as an independent in the 2005 General Assembly election partially because of the party's views on abortion.

"I remember the very first time I spoke to a group of pro-choice republicans. The first thing I said was I am passionately Republican and passionately pro-choice," Waddell said. "Those two don't got together anymore."

"I still am passionately pro-choice, and I'm very sorry that this has happened to the Republican party, because we need a good, strong two-party system," she said.

Wadell and Women's Strike Force have labeled legislation like the "personhood" bill, which would define life as starting at conception, and HB 462, which would require women to have an ultrasound at least 24 hours before having an abortion, an assault on women's rights.

The group is looking for pro-choice candidates to back, regardless of party affiliation, in an effort to oust both bills' supporters. Waddell said that while the Women's Strike Force respects Virginians' rights to vote in whatever candidate of their choosing, she doesn't think they're getting what they signed up for, not these days.

"I wondered and kept thinking is this what Virginians really wanted their legislators to focus on?" she said. "I don't think this is what they were talking about when they were running for office."

"Virginians thought they were electing members that were going to focus on transportation, jobs and the economy."