LORTON, Virginia—State Del. Kathy Tran (D.) canceled a Saturday town hall in her local district, citing "security concerns," but a pro-life rally protesting Tran’s abortion proposal took place there as planned.
This week Tran presented a bill to drastically reduce Virginia’s state regulations on abortion but quickly drew backlash when she said the bill would allow abortions as late as the day of delivery. The bill went down in the House of Delegates and two days later she claimed she "misspoke" about legalizing abortions on the day of delivery, but pro-life Virginians turned the bill and its support among Democrats into a rallying cry.
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One of the Democrats who supported Tran, Gov. Ralph Northam, inadvertently gave pro-lifers a slogan when he tried to defend the bill by seeming to endorse infanticide by saying some babies born alive could be subject to a "discussion" about whether they will live. "Resist Infanticide" was printed on signs distributed by the lead organizer, Susan B. Anthony List.
"Delegate Tran, Governor Northam, [New York Gov. Andrew] Cuomo—any legislator in this nation that is considering allowing abortion up until birth, until labor, and infanticide itself, here’s one thing we want you to know: If you seek to build women’s rights on the broken bodies of America’s children, you will fail," said Susan B. Anthony List president Marjorie Dannenfelser.
At multiple points the crowd seemed to relish booing Northam, perhaps as a result of his political vulnerability after a week of damaging headlines. Not only were his comments about the abortion bill politically damaging—with Tran herself feeling it was necessary to say she is not in support of infanticide—but he’s also facing pressure to resign over a racist photo that surfaced late Friday. The photo shows two people in blackface and a KKK hood on his personal yearbook page from medical school, although Northam is denying he is one of them and refusing to resign.
At Saturday's pro-life rally, speakers did not appear to buy Tran’s explanation that the event had to be canceled for security reasons.
"[Tran’s constituents] came here today to speak to Delegate Kathy Tran but she decided to cancel," said Heritage Action’s grassroots director Janae Stracke. "They decided to cancel because they are afraid. They wanted to make a statement and affirm themselves, but they found out you guys were coming."
Tran and State Sen. Scott A. Surovell, a co-host of the town hall, said they received threatening messages online. Further, Surovell said their decision to cancel "had nothing to do with" Northam’s photo and the imbroglio it caused.
"They know that they are not speaking for their people, they know they are not representing Americans. They are bought and paid for by the abortion industry," Stracke said.
Tina Whittington, executive vice president of Students for Life of America, also argued Democrats have been disingenuous on the abortion issue.
"The Democratic Party has been hiding for decades behind a mantra of legal, safe and rare, while [they] and the abortion lobby have been pushing forth the radical agenda of abortion on demand without apology," she said, noting only 7 percent of millennials take such an expansive view.
Penny Nance, CEO and president of Concerned Women for America, blasted Cuomo for the expansive abortion bill he signed in New York, telling the crowd not to let President Donald Trump's impolite tweets get in the way of voting for pro-life candidates.
"For everybody and I’m talking to all my friends out there, people that I know, people that I love, that stayed home in 2017 and 2018 because you didn’t like Trump’s tweets—wake up!" she said. "Elections have consequences for life."
Given the concerning news for the pro-life movement in recent weeks, the speakers set an optimistic tone. They largely focused on how faith groups can unite to help promote the pro-life cause in such diverse ways as perinatal hospice care and outreach to pregnant mothers.
Denise Cappucio, director of finance at Concerned Women for America and a constituent in Tran’s district, spoke about how she and her husband were "appalled" by the bill their state delegate had proposed, but she said she was inspired by how her fellow Christians responded.
She said the push to expand abortion rights would only serve to rally pro-lifers, quoting Japanese Admiral Isoroku Yamamoto, who wrote after the attack on Pearl Harbor, "I fear all we have done is to awaken a sleeping giant and fill him with terrible resolve."
"That’s what you see here today," Capuccio said.