The importance of voting in local and state elections was brought to some Virginians’ attention this past weekend during the “Unite Against the War on Women” rally at Festival Park.
State politicians and women’s rights advocates gathered for the nationwide event to address issues related to women’s rights.
The nationwide event focuses on issues that affect all women, including wage gaps, but Virginia’s rally took time to focus on the General Assembly’s efforts during the recently ended session to curb women’s access to reproductive care.
Virginia Delegate Jennifer McClellan, D-Richmond, like most of the day’s other speakers, stressed the importance of voting now that the General Assembly session was over.
“The 2012 General Assembly session was brought to you by those folks that stayed home (and didn’t vote),” she told the crowd. “In Virginia, every election matters and has consequences.”
Speakers, which included delegates Kaye Kory, D-Falls Church, and Charniele Herring, D-Alexandria, as well as former independent delegate Katherine Waddell (who served in the House of Delegates from 2006 to 2008) all made note of the majority Republican legislature this year and the laws that came out of it.
“(These Republicans) have moved further and further to the right, and now I think it’s time to move them right on out the door,” Waddell said to the crowd.
This year Bob Marshall, R-Manassas, proposed the controversial House Bill 1, which would have defined a fetus as a person. The bill was tabled for the year.
Speakers also referenced House Bills 62 and 462.
While HB 62 (which would have decreased aid for low-income women who sought an abortion for a child known to have an incapacitating disability before birth) was passed by indefinitely for the session, HB 462 was amended and then signed by Gov. Bob McDonnell.
HB 462, introduced by Kathy Byron, R-Lynchburg, originally required any woman seeking an abortion in the state to have a trans-vaginal ultrasound.
McDonnell asked for the bill to be amended to remove the provision for the trans-vaginal procedure. The legislature obliged but the bill still required an ultrasound prior to an abortion.
McDonnell signed the bill into law on March 7.
Both House Bills 1 and 462 received national attention from political commentator Rachel Maddow and political comedian Jon Stewart.
“We did fight back and defeat (the personhood bill) this year (and) we did defeat HB 62…,” McClellan said. “ We did that because people like you came… and told their stories … (and) people started to realize that you all matter, your stories matter, and they have the power to change a vote.”
Most speakers implored attendants to vote in the upcoming Senate election in November and made sure to point out Democratic Senate candidate and former governor of Virginia Tim Kaine’s presence at the rally.
“I was so so discouraged with the General Assembly session this year and with the decision of the legislature to instead of focus on the issues they needed to focus on, do really patronizing and insulting things to suggest they knew how to make others’ moral choices for them,” Kaine said.
Speakers made sure to mention that women make up 51 percent of the world’s population and assured women’s rights advocates that they can make a difference in their government.
“We need you to help us find candidates who get it,” McClellan told the crowd. “We need you to come out and vote for these candidates, and we need you to hold them accountable when they don’t do what is right.” CT