Richmond, Va., Apr 3, 2019 / 04:06 pm (CNA).- A crowd of thousands took to the streets of Richmond, Virginia on Wednesday to participate in Virginia’s first statewide March for Life.
Speakers at the rally included March for Life President Jeanne Mancini, Virginia Society for Human Life President Olivia Gans Turner, Victoria Cobb of The Family Foundation, adoption activist and speaker Ryan Bomberger, abortion survivor Melissa Ohden, and Felicia Pricenor, associate director of the Virginia Catholic Conference.
Ohden was born at about 31 weeks of gestation, following her teenage mother’s attempted saline abortion. She told the crowd that her life was saved by a nurse who was “unwilling to just leave me to die” after the abortion failed.
While the National March for Life is officially a bipartisan affair, featuring speakers from both parties, Wednesday’s event also took a partisan tone, as speakers repeatedly criticized Virginia’s Democratic leadership at the pre-march rally on the steps of the state capitol building.
Republican members of the state House of Delegates and Senate appeared during the rally, which featured surprise speeches from State Speaker of the House Del. Kirk Cox (R-Colonial Heights) and State Senate President Pro Tempore Sen. Stephen Newman (R).
In November, every member of the state’s House of Delegates and Senate is up for reelection. Virginia has been described as a “test case” to see how abortion will impact elections.
During the pre-march rally, the crowd cheered when speakers criticized Gov. Ralph Northam (D) and efforts by Demcorats to expand abortion laws in the state.
Most of the marchers CNA spoke with were at their first-ever pro-life rally, and nearly all cited their opposition to Northam as for why they decided to march. Police told CNA they estimated the crowd to be about 6,500.
“When Gov. Northam said that he would leave it up to the decision of the doctor and the woman whether or not to save the life of a born child or not–I just thought that was too extreme,” Claudia Powell of Williamsburg told CNA.
Powell said she had never joined a pro-life march before.
In late January, Del. Kathy Tran (D-Fairfax) introduced HB 2491, which would remove Virginia’s pro-life safeguards and permit abortion throughout an entire pregnancy. During a committee hearing, Tran admitted that there was nothing in her bill that would prevent an abortion from happening while the mother was in active labor.
Shortly before the bill failed to advance out of committee, Gov. Ralph Northam (D) appeared on a radio program on WTOP and defended the premise of the legislation. Northam, who is a pediatric neurologist, explained that if a baby were to be born alive after an attempted abortion, the baby would be kept comfortable while the doctor and parents decided whether or not to intervene.
These comments sparked a firestorm of controversy, and Northam was condemned by both of Virginia’s Catholic bishops. A spokesperson for Northam clarified that he was only referring to infants who had abnormalities, but did not clarify further.
Several people CNA spoke to on Wednesday said that they had previously been unaware of Northam’s views on abortion prior to his comments in January.
“I figured as a pediatrician, that, you know, he would believe for life. He obviously saw it,” Rachel Campbell from Glen Allen, VA told CNA. Campbell said she had never been to any sort of political rally before, and that she had “absolutely” no idea how the governor felt about abortion.
Angela and Josie Wade, a mother and daughter attending the march, told CNA that even though they had both held pro-life values, they had never attended a march or demonstration before. They, too, cited the “extreme measures” that were considered by the Virginia legislature as for why they came out to march.
“I actually feel a lot of remorse for having not stepped into that battle earlier,” said Angela Wade. She told CNA that she was not aware about Northam’s views on abortion, but also did not vote for him.
Her 12-year-old daughter Josie said that while she had previously read in books that abortion “could be a good thing,” she now thinks that abortion is wrong.
Laura Murphy, who is represented by Del. Tran in the House of Delegates, traveled to Richmond from Fairfax.
“After hearing Gov. Northam’s statement about how he supports infanticide, and listening to Del. Tran try to explain her bill of infanticide, we decided to trek all down on a bus to show we support the pro-life movement,” said Murphy
Murphy believes that Northam helped to motivate the state’s pro-life movement.
“I think we’re mobilized, we’re energized, we’re enthusiastic. We’re gonna change Richmond and make sure there’s no pink lights here like New York,” she said.