Virginia Women Gain Revision of Anti-abortion Legislation, 2012

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Time Period:  
February 19th
March 7th
Location and Goals
United States
Location City/State/Province: 
Richmond, Virginia
Location Description: 
Protest occurred outside of the Richmond, Virginia capitol building.
Block the passage of a bill that would require women seeking abortions to undergo a transvaginal ultrasound before their scheduled abortion.

On February 19th, 2012 hundreds of women in Richmond, Virginia protested two bills in the Virginia state Senate, coordinated in part by NARAL Pro-Choice Virginia. The first of these bills had already passed the Senate, called the “personhood bill,” sponsored by Delegate Bob Marshall (R-Prince William), which states that life begins at conception and would give rights to a fertilized egg. The other bill would require that women seeking abortions undergo a transvaginal ultrasound, which requires a probe being inserted into the vagina. This legislation defined embryos as humans and criminalize their destruction, required "transvaginal" ultrasounds of women seeking abortions, and cut state aid to women seeking abortions. Both of these bills reflected similar legislation proposed in a wider national movement to mandate ultrasounds before abortions.

On February 19th, 2012 women stood with locked arms and mute mouths outside of the capitol building to protest anti-abortion laws that the state was prepared to vote on. Mostly women, the protestors were estimated at approximately 1000 people. Protestors wore buttons and stickers that read lines such as, "Say No to State-Mandated Rape" and "Private Property: Keep Out." The protest was silent because Capitol ground rules states that they could not assemble, hold signs, chant, yell, or protest. The protest was initially blocked from entering Capitol Square, because officials needed to get to their 11:30am caucus meetings and floor sessions. Following the officials’ arrivals, the protestors were allowed inside of Capitol Square.

In the weeks leading up to the protests, there was mobilization via social media sites such as Facebook. On February 20th, there was another silent protest called “Speak Loudly With Silence” outside of the Virginia General Assembly building. This protest had approximately 1400 protestors, having been bolstered by coalitions like The Farm Team, a Virginia women’s issues initiative. On March 3rd, a similar protest occurred outside of the Governor’s Mansion demanding that Governor McDonnell veto the bills. The protests gained national attention to the issue when NBC aired an episode of “Saturday Night Live” that satirized that supporters of ultrasound bills.

The protests delayed the vote on the measure, but ultimately did not stop the passage of a revised ultrasound bill. The legislation passed the Virginia House on a vote of 66-32 and was later passed by Governor Bob McDonnell on March 7th, 2012. The revised bill included the external ultrasound, but was stripped of the transvaginal ultrasound requirement. Instead, women have the choice to reject a transvaginal ultrasound. This revised legislation went into effect on July 1st, 2012.

Research Notes
Associated Press. "Women Protest Anti-abortion Legislation in Virginia." Fox News. FOX News Network, 20 Feb. 2012. Web. 27 Oct. 2013. <>.

Dayen, David. "Protest of Trans-Vaginal Ultrasound Bill in Virginia Leads to Delay." Fire Dog Lake. N.p., 20 Feb. 2012. Web. 27 Oct. 2013. <>.

Eckholm, Erik, and Kim Seversom. "Virginia Senate Passes Ultrasound Bill as Other States Take Notice." New York Times. N.p., 28 Feb. 2012. Web. 27 Oct. 2013. <>.

Madison, Lucy. "Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell Signs Virginia Ultrasound Bill." CBS News. CBS Interactive, 7 Mar. 2012. Web. 27 Oct. 2013. <>.

"Newsflash: Virginia Women Rally against Anti-Abortion Bills." Ms Magazine. N.p., 21 Feb. 2012. Web. 27 Oct. 2013. <>.

Name of researcher, and date dd/mm/yyyy: 
Christen Boas Hayes 10/27/13