Planned Parenthood’s Supporters Rally at VCU

February 28th, 2011 by Kim Lenz

RICHMOND – Supporters of Planned Parenthood gathered Friday on the campus of Virginia Commonwealth University to voice opposition to abortion-clinic regulations passed by the General Assembly and to recent national attacks on the organization.

The rally came the day after the Virginia Senate joined the House of Delegates in passing legislation that would place strict restrictions on the state’s abortion providers, likely causing many clinics to close.

“For the past month, there’s been an all-out assault on women’s reproductive health care, from the fake hoax videos coming from our clinics, to Congress voting last week to defund Title X and Planned Parenthood, to last night’s vote,” said Planned Parenthood employee Courtney Jones.

“It’s an all-out assault on women’s bodies – women’s access to health care – and frankly, we’re not going to put up with it anymore.”

Jones, who helped organize the rally, called the legislation vague and unclear. Planned Parenthood is waiting to see how the Virginia Board of Health handles the situation, she said.

“We’re looking at our legal options at this point,” she said.

Jones said four clinics in the state may be able to meet the new standards. Twenty-one clinics in Virginia now provide abortions.

Rally attendees hoisted bright pink signs, despite the day’s high winds, while speakers shared their positive personal experiences with Planned Parenthood and led the crowd in chants of “our bodies, our lives, our right to decide” and “Virginia legislators, lend an ear, your war on women stops right here.”

Fia Midboe, a student in VCU’s master of social work program, was one of an estimated 60 demonstrators. She said she is disappointed in Virginia.

“It’s hard to live in a state that’s set back 100 years in terms of values,” Midboe said. “It’s also hard to be in a place and see women who you know need these services and are not able to get them anymore because of ridiculous regulations.”

Midboe was particularly concerned about the legislation’s effect on women who have been raped or have experienced other difficult life situations.

“I think Virginians – particularly women and supporters of women’s health – need to band together, coalition-build, need to get loud, need to get frustrated and need to let people know that this is not what we want for ourselves,” Midboe said.

Thursday’s floor debate in the Senate was equally heated.

“This is absurd,” said an angered Senate Majority Leader Richard Saslaw, D-Fairfax. “I have not seen a single person I know who supports this bill come in and offer to place the same regulations on colonoscopies, cosmetic surgery, LASIK surgery, cranio-facial surgery – which are every bit as invasive [as abortion].”

Shelley Abrams, executive director of A Capital Women’s Health Clinic in Richmond, said that most of the state’s abortion clinics could buckle under the costs of the new regulations. The bill would require retrofitting clinics to conform to hospital standards, including full-size waiting rooms and hallways the width of two gurneys.

“We really do see it as politically motivated,” Abrams said.

Tarina Keene, executive director of NARAL Pro-Choice Virginia, agreed.

“The politicians behind this plan falsely claim they are protecting women’s health, yet their ultimate goal is to make it even more difficult for women to access abortion care in Virginia,” Keene said.

Last August, Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli issued a legal advisory focused on the health regulations in abortion clinics statewide. He said that he would like to see these clinics held to the same standards as large-scale hospitals.

Having passed both House and Senate, the bill awaits the signature of Gov. Bob McDonnell, who has publicly supported Cuccinelli’s opinion.

Olivia Gans, the president of the Virginia Society for Human Life, hailed the bill’s passage as “a very common-sense, protective measure.”

Gans highlighted the trial of Dr. Kermit Gosnell in Philadelphia, whose illegal after-hours abortion clinic made grisly headlines last year.

According to Gans, a Virginia woman was one of Gosnell’s patients who died in what prosecutors called a “house of horrors.”

“Abortion is not a casual experience,” Gans said. “It’s always an invasive procedure. We have evidence that women are dying.”

Jeff Caruso, executive director of the Virginia Catholic Conference, said his organization applauds the passage of the legislation.

“In our view, the General Assembly decided the abortion industry should no longer be exempt from safety standards that apply to other surgery centers,” he said.

Caruso called the bill an important women’s health measure.

“These are common-sense safety standards that will do a lot to further women’s health and safety,” he said.

Planned Parenthood began in 1916. The organization’s mission is to improve women’s health and safety, prevent unintended pregnancies and advance the right and ability of individuals and families to make informed, responsible choices.

Andrea Gomperts, also a VCU social work student, attended Friday’s rally.

“The funding that goes to Planned Parenthood is for health screenings and all the different services they provide that go toward the health and safety of women,” Gomperts said. “If that funding is taken away, women are not going to have the resources that they need.”

8 Responses to Planned Parenthood’s Supporters Rally at VCU

  1. Anonymous

    February 28, 2011 at 1:42 pm

    I feel we have just stepped into a backward-travelling time machine. Sen. Saslaw’s observation speaks volumes. “I have not seen a single person I know who supports this bill come in and offer to place the same regulations on colonoscopies, cosmetic surgery, LASIK surgery, cranio-facial surgery – which are every bit as invasive [as abortion].”

  2. Anonymous

    February 28, 2011 at 1:51 pm

    When women have to seek less safe options
    for abortions their infection, morbidity and
    mortality rates will markedly increase.
    When government makes adverse financial decisions
    such as this, taxpayers should bear the costs.
    The bias that the church exerts on politicians must not
    continue.

  3. Anonymous

    February 28, 2011 at 4:12 pm

    this is a great bill. the clinics need to be regulated just like the hospitals for the health of the woman. abortions are wrong but if they have to be done it should be done so that the woman does not suffer any ill effects, as well as the medical personel.

  4. Anonymous

    February 28, 2011 at 4:26 pm

    If abortion was as wide spread in the 60’s as is the case now I would not be here. I just want to thank my mother for the gift of life. This whole argument is absurd. If the egg is alive and the sperm is alive then together they are alive. I guess it is legal murder just beacuse a woman won’t say NO and I really can’t believe they want the taxpayers to pay for it.

  5. Anonymous

    February 28, 2011 at 5:57 pm

    This bill which purports to be for “women’s good”, is a lie and an attack on everything our mothers’ fought for in the 60’s. People in this state should keep their religion at home, where it belongs, and not on the floor of the legislature. This bill drags women’s rights back to the dark ages. I hope all who support freedom and rights remember this when it comes time to vote for your state senator and local rep in the next election.

  6. Anonymous

    February 28, 2011 at 6:18 pm

    Dear appalled if you don’t like it move to another state. Their are 49 others to choose from.

  7. Anonymous

    February 28, 2011 at 6:32 pm

    I am appalled that again woman have to fight for the right to choose types of reproductive health care. There is no proof that the existing clinics fail safety and health guidelines. The media and politicians should refer to these clinics as reproductive health centers. They do not only perform abortions but dispense needed information about birth control and provide other reproductive health services such as PAP smears. These upper middle class legislators who suported the bill will never have to worry that their wives, sisters, or girl friends may have limited options for reproductive care because they can likely pay for alternatives to these clinics. Again, these paternalisitic legislators, to include Tommy Norment, pass laws which make it more difficult for the working poor to have options. These legislators need to remember that they represent women as well as men. If men can have vasectomies as an outpatient than women should be able to receive reproductive health care as an outpatient.

  8. Anonymous

    March 8, 2011 at 2:46 pm

    Ok… what am I missing that others are so passionately getting? I am a Pro-Choice supporter all the way. HOWEVER, I believe that women seeking abortions have a RIGHT to have this medical procedure performed in a CLEAN/SAFE ENVIRONMENT. So, I support this legislation. My thought is, if so many of our abortion clinics will close down w/ the passing of this bill, then they were unsafe in the first place! I absolutely believe in the right to have an abortion, if that is a decision you make. Though, I also lost a friend at a very young age of 17 who had an abortion. Went home and bled to death on her living room sofa. I guess having had this experience, I believe safety should come FIRST.

    So please do enlighten me… what am I missing that has so many others up in arms??

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