By Ashley McLeod
Capital News Service
RICHMOND – More than 200 men and women lined the sidewalk behind the Governor’s Mansion on Thursday night to protest Gov. Bob McDonnell’s signing of a bill requiring women to undergo an ultrasound before an abortion.
The candlelight vigil was the fourth event in response to legislation that some demonstrators say is an attack on women’s reproductive rights. Last Saturday at the state Capitol, more than 30 protesters were arrested. There were no arrests at Thursday’s demonstration.
“We wanted something a little bit lower key, a little less vocal and confrontational,” said Vivek Jian, a physician who helped organize the event.
Although Capitol police were present, the protest was peaceful. Officers did not appear in riot gear, as they had on Saturday.
Jian said the purpose of the vigil was to bring people together and reaffirm their commitment to upholding women’s reproductive rights.
The low-key event took place on International Women’s Day, and participants pinned to their clothing pages from a petition containing more than 33,000 signatures. The petition, which was in opposition to several bills regarding women’s health, had been sent to the governor’s office days before.
Morgan Zito has helped plan all four protests. He believes these events are important in empowering citizens to get involved and make an impact.
“It’s unfortunate that it’s come down to this, and he’s already signed it,” Zito said. “But it’s important to come out and share that we’re not happy with it and were not going rest while this is going on in our state.”
Lauren Lovejoy, a recent graduate of Virginia Commonwealth University, held a candle during the vigil to represent what she believes is a sad day for women in Virginia.
“There are a lot of people upset about these issues, and I want to represent them since they cannot be here,” Lovejoy said.
The crowd included men and women of all ages, including children. The demonstrators held silence for about 30 seconds, and after the silence began singing several verses of “This Little Light of Mine.”
“I think this is the beginning of the slow and inevitable death of apathy in Virginia, at least I hope it is,” Zito said.
The governor was not in Richmond at the time of the vigil. In signing the ultrasound bill, McDonnell said he believes the law will help women make informed choices about whether to have an abortion.
“As difficult as an abortion decision is, the information provided by ultrasounds, along with other information given by the doctor pursuant to current law and prevailing medical practice, can help the mother make a fully informed decision,” McDonnell said.
“I believe that we become a more compassionate society when we enact reasonable legislation to protect innocent human life.”
Capital News Service is a student news-gathering program sponsored by the School of Mass Communications at Virginia Commonwealth University.