Debate Over Abortion Rights Carries Over To New Session

 By Katherine Johnson

Capital News Service

RICHMOND – About two dozen anti-abortion groups from across the country joined the Virginia Society for Human Life at its “Stand Up for Life” gathering on the General Assembly’s opening day.

Hundreds of supporters gathered near the Bell Tower at Capitol Square to show their support for “pro-life” legislation. They also thanked legislators for passing a law last session requiring women to get an ultrasound before having an abortion.

Olivia Gans Turner, president of VSHL, said supporters must “encourage our legislators to do what is right.”

“Consider the victory of last year as an opportunity to look forward at what we can do to continue to protect women and – most importantly – innocent, unborn children,” Turner told the crowd Wednesday.

Richard Salmon, a supporter at the rally, doesn’t think there’s a legal solution for abortion, “but we should not be funding or encouraging through our government resources the killing of children,” he said.

Another anti-abortion advocate arrived at the rally with a large cross as testimony. Henry Guevara said the issue is “more than church and state.”

“A country that kills its own cannot survive and will not prosper,” Guevara said.

Turner, who said she once had an abortion, said women should have the right to know all medical information before “we make a permanent life and death decision for our unborn children.”

During her speech, Turner thanked the legislators who supported her group’s positions. “It is hard work to do the right thing in the face of enormous, and often hostile, opposition,” she said.

For Turner, abortion is a human rights issue, and life should be protected from “conception to natural death.”

“Ultimately, if our right to life is not protected under the law, then none of our rights are sacred,” she said.

In response to the rally, the House Democratic Caucus announced plans for legislation in support of women’s reproductive health.

“The Republicans did real damage to Virginia’s women by passing burdensome regulations” on a woman’s right to have abortion, Sen. Mark Herring of Leesburg said at the press conference.

Instead of legislators being motivated by ideology, “we should be motivated by helping Virginians,” said Herring, who represents parts of Fairfax and Loudoun counties.

Delegate Kaye Kory of Falls Church, who also represents part of Fairfax County, introduced House Bill 1560, which would remove the requirement to get an ultrasound before having abortion.

Delegate Vivian Watts of Annandale has introduced HB 1644, which would define birth control. “It makes it clear that using birth control is not considered an abortion,” Watts said.