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Texas Law "Inspires" Abortion Opponents in Virginia

Jahd Khalil
Hundreds of people gathered on Capitol Square on September 17, 2021 to rally against abortion access.

Anti-abortion rights protestors gathered on Capitol Square Friday for an annual rally said they were energized by a near-total ban on abortions in Texas. But anti-abortion state-wide candidates and organizers distanced themselves from the new law while still calling for restrictions on abortions.

Speeches by anti-abortion rights activists echoed off the nearby US Court of Appeals.

“Do you believe the abortion crisis has gone on 48 years too long?”

“Yes!” the crowd responded.

Kristin Gomez was one of an easily hundreds-strong crowd.

“For me the Texas heartbeat bill is very inspirational and more importantly I believe in God and I think God is going to bless Texas,” she said. “I'm just eager to watch how God is going to bless them, which will inspire the pro-life generation more than anything, to fight politically.”

The Texas law bans abortions after a heartbeat is detected, which happens around six weeks into a pregnancy, before most women are aware they are pregnant.

Gomez came to Richmond from Manassas with her friend Becky Irving.

“I think we could start off just like Texas...and go from there,” she said.

“Yeah, start with the heartbeat bill here for sure,” Gomez replied.

Politicians and organizers are less willing to talk about the Texas law.

“Virginia just isn't Texas. So, while that's a big national conversation, here folks realize that our General Assembly has stripped off the most common sense, basic pro-life laws,” said Victoria Cobb, the President of the Family Foundation.

Republican statewide candidates for Governor, Lt Governor, and Attorney General didn’t attend the rally.

Jamie Lockhart, the Executive Director of Planned Parenthood Advocates of Virginia said that doesn’t surprise her given that polls show access to abortion is relatively popular in Virginia.

“That's consistent with what we've heard from Glenn Youngkin, the Republican nominee for governor,” she said, referencing a video in which an abortion-rights activist recorded Youngkin. "As he said in that video, he wants to go on offense, but he can't talk about in that in the campaign, because he knows that he would lose the independent voters that he needs.”

Lockhart said the candidates were treading carefully, “because they know that their real positions are unpopular.”

Linda White said she thought Youngkin wasn’t “100% Pro-life,” but was confident he would roll back abortion access.

“He's an intelligent man. He's open to reason and if we can take off the whole executive branch of Virginia, we'll be in really good shape,” White said.

“This dangerous Texas ban could very well come to the Commonwealth of Virginia if we don't elect champions for reproductive rights this November, said Lockhart.

In Thursday’s debate Youngkin said he would not have signed the Texas bill.

Glenn Youngkin did say he would support a pain threshold bill. Although experts argue that pain-threshold or fetal pain bills are based on dubious science, those bills typically ban abortions after 20 weeks.

The rally also served to mobilize abortion advocates, Cobb said. In her speech she encouraged attendees to text a number to get involved, much of the crowd toyed with their phones as she gave instructions on how to get involved that way.

“The goal is that people don't just march, that they engage,” she said “So the goal is that we capture this pro-life audience and we are able to keep in touch with them.”

The family foundation said in an announcement that “The event concludes when the crowd completes their march to their local registrar to vote for pro-life candidates.”

This report, provided by Virginia Public Radio, was made possible with support from the Virginia Education Association.

Correction: An earlier version of this story misspelled Jamie Lockhart's name.

Jahd Khalil is a reporter and producer in Richmond.
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