The culture war battle is firmly in Virginia this month as bills regarding Personhood and mandating sonograms for all pregnant women seeking an abortion make their way through the Virginia General Assembly.
Northern Virginia has long sung a different political tune than the rest of the state, as longtime Del. Ken Plum (D-Reston) often points out. One of the centers of liberalism? That would be Reston, which Plum has represented consistently since 1982.
Plum met with citizens on Saturday at Reston Community Center Lake Anne. He held an informal community meeting to hear what was on constiuents' minds.
They did not mince words.
"I want you to sue," said one man, his voice breaking. "Mandating sonograms has got to be against the Constitution. They can't bully people."
The man was referring to House Bill 462, which passed the house 63-36 last week.
The bill requires every woman undergoing an abortion to first undergo an ultrasound. The bill says the woman must be given an opportunity to view the ultrasound image of her fetus before the abortion.
Under the bill, if the heartbeat cannot be detected, as is often the case early in a pregnancy, the woman would be subjected to a view with a transvaginal probe.
Says Plum: "I find the bill repulsive."
The group also discussed HB1, which would grant individual rights to an embryo from the moment of conception. On Tuesday, the House of Delegates passed the measure on a 66-32 vote.
The bill provides that “unborn children” from the moment of conception until birth at every stage of biological development “enjoy all the rights, privileges, and immunities available to other persons, citizens, and residents of the Commonwealth, subject only to the laws and constitutions of Virginia and the United States, precedents of the United States Supreme Court, and provisions to the contrary in the statutes of the Commonwealth.”
No state has passed such a law. Since 2008, Republicans in Colorado and Mississippi have pushed for similar Personhood bills, but they failed.
HB 1, sponsored by Del. Bob Marshall (R-Manassas), now heads to the Senate.
"The implications are so incredibly far-reaching," said Plum. "No way should the legislature go forward with that bill. People joke and say 'well then could pregnant women use the HOV lane?' The point being is once you go there, could contraceptives be banned?"
So what can citizens do? Make their voices heard, Plum says.
"Your first line of defense is tell the governor not to sign this bill," he said. "We need to get him to know a lot of people don't want this."
Restonian Beverly Cosham, in the audience Saturday, agrees. She says she is committed to raising opposition to these bills.
"We have to get people energized," she said. "The Republicans say they want less government, but this is more government. Get on Facebook. Tell your friends. We cannot sleep through this. This is seriously dangerous."