At the end of February, Virginia lawmakers backed away from their intention to require every woman seeking an abortion to first undergo an ultrasound—and be positioned to view the image of the fetus. Governor Bob McDonnell balked at signing the measure into law when critics, many of them women, bridled at a provision that would force women in early pregnancy to submit to a vaginal ultrasound to detect the fetal heartbeat.
An argument was made that such coercion satisfies the legal definition of rape.
McDonnell's abrupt stab at moderation substituted an abdominal ultrasound for the vaginal intrusion. This, he may have thought, magnanimous gesture failed to calm many of Virginia's women, and the men who love them, about 1,000 of whom converged on Virginia's state capitol in Richmond early in March. From there, to quote Richmond's alternative Style Weekly, "Things got ugly."
Organizers of the protest event, called Speak Loudly With Silence, estimated that 1,000 people massed at the capitol steps to express dissatisfaction with their elected public servants. About 20 State Police officers in body armor and face shields were called in to assist capitol police in controlling dispersing the crowd.
Virginia lawmakers have also considered a bill that would define life as beginning at the moment of conception. This "personhood" initiative would have made any form of contraception that blocks a fertilized egg's implantation illegal, severely limiting the options of women to exercise their reproductive rights and, in effect, be masters of their own bodies.
Women have only become commonplace on the front lines of law enforcement during the current generation. Ideally, these lady officers should be accorded the respect of any other outrunners from a marginalized group who manage to break free of stereotypes and preconceptions. This becomes a challenge when they are on hand to drag your mothers, sisters, aunts and girlfriends away.
While many of the demonstrators on these steps were still little children, the Women's Movement in America had won decisive victories for reproductive rights, against hiring discrimination, in protections against sexual assault and harassment, and for voting and education. Perhaps one of the greatest victories of the Women's Movement of the 1960s and 1970s is that it raised a generation that is ready to fight all those battles all over again, if forced to.
The notion that women are fully equipped to make their own decisions is, in fact, a relatively recent innovation in the male-dominated exchange of human thought. But now that the genie of female free will is out of the bottle, can a squad of ninja troopers really presume to cork it up again?
Half a dozen police officers, one a stereotype-defying female, combine their physical strength and mental acuity to remove a lone female from the Richmond capitol steps. It is safe to presume that no serious crime was in progress elsewhere in Richmond on that day.
According to Richmond's Style Weekly, 31 people were arrested on the capitol steps—14 men and 17 women. Charges ranged from unlawful assembly to trespassing. The real crime, however, was refusal to show apathy and acquiescence in the face of mandated intrusions into basic issues of human rights and privacy. The battle to remain a free, democratic populace is and always has been ongoing.
The woman of Virginia should be praised and celebrated for stepping up and showing the country that anything worth keeping is worth swarming the state capitol over. The overwhelming show of force that confronted the women illustrates just how frightening their strength is to the powers that be. Molly Vice, press liaison for Speak Loudly With Silence, told Style Weekly: "We're here ... to tell truth to power that infringing on women's health is not okay. Not this year or the next."