On Monday, February 20th, over 1,100 people turned out in one of the largest demonstrations to happen in Richmond in decades, to show their opposition to a series of anti-choice and “anti-women” bills that have been working their way through the Virginia General Assembly. “Speak Loudly With Silence” was the brain child of APV board member Claire Tuite and others. It brought people from across the state together at the Capitol in Richmond to stand as mute witnesses to the ongoing war on women’s reproductive rights being waged by the state’s Republican majority. On a cold and windy morning state lawmakers walking from the General Assembly building to the nearby Capitol were met by over a thousand silent watchers who lined the walkways between the buildings. It was a powerful and moving message that we sent, that we are watching what they do and that we don’t like it. In our conversations with Delegates and Senators later in the day it was clear that message got across loud (or silently) and clear. APV has been involved from the start in the fight to stop restrictive, unnecessary and punitive legislation that would wipe away decades of progress on women’s health and reproductive rights here in Virginia. We are very proud of Claire and the work she has done on behalf of women in the Commonwealth and our membership were well represented in the large crowd. Thanks to everyone who came out and to the many organizations and individuals working to turn back the tide of ignorance and fear that threatens to make Virginia one of the most repressive states in the nation on women’s rights.
On February 13th, the day before Valentine’s Day and the next to last day for the General Assembly here in Virginia to pass bills before crossing over to deal with legislation from the other chamber, APV’s Monday Salon was pleased to welcome Delegate Patrick Hope of Arlington. Del. Hope came straight from the House floor and spoke and took questions from the audience for an hour. On behalf of the APV board of directors, I want to thank Patrick for coming to see us after such a long and frustrating day. (Photo: Stephanie Rodriguez, Del. Patrick Hope, Darby Lawes & Scott Price)
Alliance for Progressive Values President Stephanie Rodriguez, board member Claire Tuite and member Kirsten Gray all spoke at a subcommittee hearing this morning on HB836, a bill in the Virginia General Assembly which would have ended the practice of shackling pregnant prisoners during labor. Debate lasted for over an hour with a large group of speakers from across the ideological spectrum testifying in favor of the bill. Sadly the bill failed to report and is dead for this session. The main opposition came from law enforcement and the sheriff’s departments who argued alternately that the practice of shacking did not occur, or if it did it had little effect and must be warranted. Subcommittee Chairman Ben Cline, a prosecutor from Rockbridge, was particularly antagonistic to the bill and claimed that its passage would endanger correction officers, doctors, nurses, the general public and perhaps the state of the union if women prisoners were allowed to deliver their children without manacles. For the record the bill gave wide leeway for corrections officers to use their best judgment in these cases, it simply prohibited the uniform use of shackles which seems to be a prevailing pattern in parts of Virginia. No one wants women, even women in labor, who are a clear and present danger either to themselves or to others, women with histories of violence towards guards or doctors to be unsupervised or totally unrestrained such that others might be hurt, but the fact is that the vast majority of women in prison are nonviolent offenders and there was powerful testimony today that these women would almost certainly be incapable of escape or harming others directly before, during or after delivery.
APV would like to thank Delegate Patrick Hope of Arlington for sponsoring this bill and Delegate Eileen Filler-Corn of Fairfax who cast the only vote in favor of passage. We also want to thank everyone who signed our petition in favor of HB836, you helped us raise awareness about this issue with the general public and legislators and that can only help our cause. APV is involved with the ongoing regulatory process that also seeks to stop this demeaning and inhumane practice. This process is a slow one and can take a year or more, but it is our best shot right now. To read APV’s comments and to post your own on the proposed state regs, go here: http://townhall.virginia.gov/L/entercomment.cfm?stageid=6083
The Washington Post reported on the committee and quoted two APV members.
“The shackling of pregnant prisoners is shameful,” said Stephanie Rodriguez, president of the Alliance for Progressive Values.
Kirsten Gray of Richmond (APV member) recounted her own childbirth experience and said it was folly to believe women in such pain could be a threat to public safety.
Our New Year’s online fund-drive was a smashing success. APV had aimed to raise $1.000 in ten dollar increments over the course of the month. With your help we made that number with days to go. THANK YOU all very much for helping us spread a progressive message here in Richmond at the General Assembly and in Congress.
This bill was read on the floor Friday, it will be debated on Monday and the final vote will be Tuesday. The Senate will be in session from 12 noon on. The bill will be debated at some point as part of “bills on second reading, regular calendar”. You can watch the debate on the internet here. The vote will be very close and we need Democrats to hang together on this. Thanks.
Update: Thank you to all who lent their support and signatures. Unfortunately, this bill was passed 21 to 18 on Wednesday, February 1st. This is very disappointing, but not unexpected with this General Assembly. We will continue to fight bills in the GA that we feel endanger the rights of women. We will not give up and we will make your voices heard. The tide will turn.