Several hundred people — men and women — lined Capitol Square on Monday in silent protest against legislation they say chips away at abortion rights.
Hand-decorated T-shirts bore startling messages: “Keep your laws off my future wife’s body,” “Virginia is for lovers, not probes’’ and “If you can cut off my reproductive choice, can I cut off yours?”
Another referenced the trans-vaginal ultrasounds that would be required of women seeking abortions in the early stages of pregnancy: “What is more intrusive than vaginal penetration?”
Some demonstrators wore arm bands with message such as, “Leave my body alone.”
Legislators walked by the protesters as they made their way to the Capitol for their noon floor session. Several Republicans ignored them, while several Democrats stopped to marvel.
“I’m so excited there’s a new generation of women who are expressing themselves,’’ Sen. Janet Howell (D-Fairfax) said.
Protesters, who mostly stayed quiet, held up signs. “I am not a [expletive deleted] incubator,” read one. “When do I get personhood, Bob?” read another.
That referenced a so-called personhood bill by Del. Bob Marshall (R-Prince William), which has passed the House and has yet to be heard in the Senate.
Marshall, a candidate for U.S. Senate, said later that the protesters have a right to be at the Capitol expressing their views.
In the House, as demonstrators stood outside, delegates postponed a final vote Monday on the ultrasound bill as well as two other contentious bills — one that would allow adoption agencies to turn away parents on the basis of sexual orientation and another that would codify the “castle doctrine,” which allows homeowners to use deadly force in defense of themselves, their homes and families and protects them from civil liability.
Del. Kaye Kory (D-Fairfax) took to the House floor to decry the bill that would force women to “submit to involuntary vaginal penetration.”
“This body is mounting an assault on the freedom and liberty of women in the commonwealth of Virginia,” she said.
All bills would be sent to Gov. Bob McDonnell (R)’s desk. He has publicly expressed support for the ultrasound and adoption bills, but on Monday an aide said he would review all measures before deciding whether to sign them.
Protesters later gathered around the bell tower in Capitol Square to continue their demonstration in more conventional fashion, with speakers taking turns at a microphone to denounce the bills.
In the crowd was Melanie Barr, a 28-year-old stay-at-home mother from Richmond. She had her 9-month-old son, Ben Ebsary, strapped to her in a baby carrier plastered with yellow tape.
“This was a choice,” read the message scrawled on the tape.
“No government should tell me what to do with my body,” Barr said. “This is not limited government as Republicans had promised.”