RICHMOND, Va. -- Over one thousand people packed around the Bell Tower at the Virginia State Capitol in Richmond on Wednesday and then marched around the surrounding streets in support of the fifth Virginia March for Life.
"I'm overjoyed to see the support here today at the Capitol for the value of life. It's an emotional moment for me, but I'm so glad to be able to do it," said Del. Emily Brewer (R - 67th), one of the event's speakers, to the crowd. "As a child of adoption, I only get to stand before you today because somebody else chose life."
Much of the focus of the day, including the signs, chants and speeches, focused on how this was the first march to be held since the overturning of Roe v. Wade by the U.S. Supreme Court, a move that gave states the final say on the issue.
"Some of you have been working towards that moment for decades. And we thank you," said Family Foundation President Victoria Cobb. "Today is our chance to make our voices heard and for them to see that this matters to Virginians and to get a picture that we are the kinds of people that are going to show up and we're going to take this issue all the way to the ballot box."
While the crowd called for more restrictions, Attorney General Jason Miyares said he opposed the idea that women should be prosecuted for seeking one.
“The pro-life message is one of compassion. And there have been some voices in this country saying we should prosecute women who make the decision to have an abortion. That is not right,” Miyares said.
Among those marching in the crowd was Lorraine Fleeman, who said she believes life begins at conception and abortion is wrong.
"We're very happy that the Supreme Court identified their error in '73," said Fleeman. "Getting it back to the states, it allows everyone -- everyone -- in a democratic republic to vote. And that is where it's at. The battle is now in each state. People get to choose for life or abortion."
Fleeman was among the attendees who also spent time before the march meeting and lobbying lawmakers on the issue.
"We're hoping that the legislature will see to it that life begins at conception and we need to support life. I've sat across from a lot of women at a pregnancy center who regret their abortions," said Fleeman. "And so, that's why I'm here to help women have another choice."
Another attendee, Sherry Owen, who said she has been at all five marches, said the push for restrictions needs to go hand-in-hand with more resources for those impacted.
"What we can do as pro-lifers to help these women. I am in front of Planned Parenthood one day a week. I've been doing that for going on nine years and these women and their families need help. This is going to give us an opportunity to step up our game to offer health care, ultrasounds and also adoption options," said Owen.
Like he did last year, Gov. Glenn Youngkin also appeared after the speeches and marched with the crowd for some of the routes.
"I'm just always encouraged when I see Virginians coming together in an extraordinary way to stand up for life. Yeah. And this is a great statement by a lot of people, young people, older people, folks from all walks of life," said Youngkin.
While Republicans control the House and Governor's mansion, Democrats in control of the Senate have blocked several measures aimed to restrict access, including the 15-week ban supported by Youngkin, a move he criticized.
"I'm incredibly disappointed in the Senate Democrats. I mean, Virginians, elected a pro-life governor and the one thing I do know is Virginians want fewer abortions, not more abortions. And they seem to completely reject that concept," said Youngkin.
His office pointed CBS 6 to this survey from Democrats for Life as an indication of support for his stance, which said that only 36% of respondents support legal abortions without exceptions in the second trimester, which is currently allowed in Virginia (third-trimester abortions are allowed in some circumstances, such as to save the mother's life).
However, supporters of current abortion laws point to a recent poll from The Wason Center that 43% of respondents support the current laws and 29% want less restrictive laws.
"We're feeling confident about the fact that seven and ten Virginians support access to safe legal abortion. And we know if anything, Virginians want less restrictions. They don't want abortion bans," said Jamie Lockhart, Executive Director for Planned Parenthood Advocates of Virginia. "We've seen the defeat of several abortion bans in the Senate and we've seen that the House hasn't even docketed their abortion bans because they know how unpopular they are."
Lockhart added that because all 140 seats of the General Assembly are up for election in November, "abortion is on the ballot".
"We know that Governor Youngkin wants to enact additional restrictions on reproductive health care. We've seen it with the ban that he's pushing and so we need to ensure that there are majorities in the House and Senate that support abortion rights," said Lockhart. "So, the governor cannot enact any harmful abortion bans here in the Commonwealth of Virginia."