The Washington Post

Virginia protesters plan candlelight vigil to support abortion rights

Demonstrators plan to gather outside the governor’s mansion Thursday evening to express their opposition to legislation in the Virginia General Assembly that they say chips away at abortions rights.

The silent candlelight vigil will be held on the International Day for Women, three days before the legislature’s scheduled adjournment.

The event is being organized by activists who call themselves Speak Loud with Silence, the same group that held Saturday’s protest on the steps of the Capitol at which 30 people were arrested.

Del. Eileen Filler-Corn( D-Fairfax), left, addresses a "Stands for Women's Rights" rally at the Bell Tower in Capitol Square in Richmond, Monday, Feb. 20, 2012. (Bob Brown/AP)

Thursday’s protest is, in part, being held to “mourn the direction of our beloved country that now regularly arrests and detains the people willing to put their bodies on the line in defense of women’s and human rights, and meets its people, in peaceable assembly for the redress of grievances, with a heavily armed police force,’’ according to the group’s news release.

Democratic legislators this week blasted what they called excessive police force at last weekend’s rally, where officers wore riot gear and carried semiautomatic weapons.

Gov. Robert F. McDonnell and Lt. Gov. Bill Bolling, both Republicans, called on lawmakers to apologize for “unprecedented” remarks “attacking Virginia’s law enforcement.’’

Protests are allowed on Capitol Square, but only in one spot — the historic Bell Tower.

Three weeks ago, more than 1,200 people lined Capitol Square in a silent protest against the abortion bills. Two weeks ago, 150 people gathered outside the governor’s mansion.

In both those instances, protesters gathered in parts of the square where demonstrations are not permitted. They were allowed to remain the first time, but the second time they were told to move.

Thursday’s protest will take place behind the Executive Mansion outside Capitol Square.

Virginia has been in the national spotlight in recent weeks for some of its antiabortion legislation. Several bills have already died during the 60-day session — including those that sought to define a fertilized egg as a person, deny state-funded abortions to poor women with grossly deformed fetuses and ban abortions after 20 weeks.

But McDonnell signed a measure Wednesday requiring women to get an ultrasound before an abortion after it was amended to no longer mandate a trans-vaginal procedure.



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