Speeches by anti-abortion activists echoed the neighboring US Court of Appeals.
“Do you think the abortion crisis has lasted 48 years too long?
“Yes!” the crowd responded.
Kristin Gomez was among a crowd of hundreds.
“To me, the Texas Heartbeat Bill is very inspiring and more importantly, I believe in God and I believe God is going to bless Texas,” she said. “I just can’t wait to see how God will bless them, which will inspire the pro-life generation more than anything to fight back politically.”
Texas law prohibits abortions after a heartbeat is detected, which occurs about six weeks into a pregnancy, before most women realize they are pregnant.
Gomez came to Richmond from Manassas with her friend Becky Irving.
“I think we could start like Texas…and go from there,” she said.
“Yeah, start with the heartbeat bill here for sure,” Gomez replied.
Politicians and organizers are less willing to talk about Texas law.
“Virginia just isn’t Texas. So while this is a great national conversation, people here realize that our General Assembly has taken down the most basic and common sense pro-life laws,” said Victoria Cobb, President of the Family Foundation.
Statewide Republican candidates for governor, lieutenant governor and attorney general did not attend the rally.
Jamie Lockhart, executive director of Planned Parenthood Advocates of Virginia, said that doesn’t surprise her given that polls show access to abortion is relatively popular in Virginia.
“It fits with what we heard from Glenn Youngkin, the Republican gubernatorial candidate,” she said, referring to a video in which an abortion rights activist recorded Youngkin. “As he said in this video, he wants to go on the attack, but he can’t talk about it during the campaign because he knows he would lose the independent voters he needs.”
Lockhart said the candidates were treading carefully, “because they know their real positions are unpopular.”
Linda White said she believed Youngkin was not “100% pro-life”, but was convinced he would cut access to abortion.
“He’s a smart man. He’s open to reason and if we can pull the entire executive branch out of Virginia, we’ll be in really good shape,” White said.
“This dangerous Texas ban could very well hit the Commonwealth of Virginia if we don’t elect champions for reproductive rights in November,” Lockhart said.
During Thursday’s debate, Youngkin said he would not have signed the Texas bill.
Glenn Youngkin said he would support a pain threshold bill. Although experts say pain threshold or fetal pain bills are based on questionable science, these bills generally ban abortions after 20 weeks.
The rally also served to mobilize abortion advocates, Cobb said. In her speech she encouraged attendees to text a number to get involved, with much of the crowd playing with their phones as she gave instructions on how to get involved in this way.
“The goal is for people to not just walk, to engage,” she said. “So the goal is that we capture that pro-life audience and be able to stay in touch with them.”
The family foundation said in an announcement that “the event ends when the crowd completes their march to their local registrar to vote for pro-life candidates.”
This report, provided by Virginia Public Radiowas made possible thanks to the support of the Virginia Education Association.
Correction: An earlier version of this story misspelled Jamie Lockhart’s name.