Chip Lauterbach, Contributing Writer
A crowd of anti-abortion activists gathered at Capitol Square for the Commonwealth for Life Rally Feb. 7, energized by recent attempts by Virginia Democrats to introduce legislation to allow late-term abortion.
Protesters held signs, chanted Bible verses and listened to speeches from the steps of the Capitol building. Among those assembled were members of Virginia Republican party, religious leaders, students from private religious schools and congregations from all over Virginia.
“Life is a gift from God,” said Father Thierry Hakpon, an anglican priest from local church St. Alban’s. “God gives life and we have no right, no matter how that life gets into the womb, we have no right to take that life.”
A firestorm of angry debate has emerged on both sides of the issue following the introduction of late-term abortion legislation in Virginia by Del. Kathy Tran, D-Fairfax, and recent comments by Gov. Ralph Northam that some interpreted as an endorsement of infanticide.
Tran and Northam provoked the ire of anti-abortion advocates when they appeared to support fetus termination immediately after birth. Late-term abortions are abortions that occur in the third trimester.
Northam’s answers in a radio interview are seen by many as the catalyst for the surfacing of racist yearbook photos that have left Northam’s governorship hanging by a thread.
“I think the whole argument of a woman’s rights, or their sovereignty over their own body, clearly goes out the window when we are talking about blatant infanticide,” said Cynthia Dunbar, national committeewoman for the Republican Party of Virginia who spoke at the Capitol during the march.
HB 2491, sponsored by Del. Kathy Tran, D-Fairfax, would have changed the current requirement that three doctors sign off on the medical necessity of a late-stage termination. Tran’s legislation would have reduced the number of doctors’ approval from three to one. These abortions are only performed if the pregnancy or birth would harm the mother or the fetus would not survive due to gestational defects.
Only two late-stage abortions have taken place in Virginia since 2000.
There were few abortion-rights advocates and no trace of a counterprotest among the anti-abortion supporters. Among the abortion-rights advocates was Amelia Diaz, who was raised Catholic.
“Because of my culture I feel that [late-term abortion] is wrong, but I have heard so many stories about how the baby is going to be born with so many problems, or the mom might not make it,” Diaz said. “Personally, it’s not for me, but I wouldn’t think any less of anyone who felt that they had to do it. Who am I to judge?”
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