The lobbying arm of Planned Parenthood rolled a bus in the Arlington, Saturday, for what it calls the "Women Are Watching" tour. It's an eleven-state effort by the Planned Parenthood Action Fund to mobilize pro-choice voters.
A host of speakers decried efforts by social conservatives to limit abortion and to de-fund other Planned Parenthood services. Republicans Mitt Romney, Paul Ryan, and George Allen (who is running for the Senate in Virginia) were top targets.
"Government has no place in our bedrooms," declared Delegate Charniele Herring (D--Alexandria), "and certainly no place inside a woman's body."
Most of the speakers also strongly endorsed President Obama's health reform initiative, which, among other things, prohibits insurance companies from charging women more than they charge men. In the past, some companies have done that, arguing that female patients tend to be more costly than male patients.
The star of the Planned Parenthood rally: former Democratic governor Tim Kaine, who is also running for the U.S. Senate in Virginia. Kaine told the crowd that conservatives at the federal and state levels are constantly trying to overturn Roe v. Wade.
"There is a live proposal to change federal law to say 'life begins at conception' and all 'personhood' rights attach from that moment forward," said Kaine. "This would be very, very dangerous legislation."
The pro-choice speakers pointed out: the language crafted in the Republican platform calls for a constitutional amendment effectively banning abortion in all circumstances.
Republican George Allen is generally a pro-life candidate, but Allen does not endorse the GOP absolutist position on abortion.
"I think there should always be exceptions for the life of the mother, as well as for pregnancies caused by rape and incest, former Gov. Allen told us in an interview." Allen called the abortion issue a "distraction", and said voters care more about jobs and the economy.
Virginia is now a peculiar swing state. Voters there went decisively for Obama in 2008, then generally elected Republican candidates in 2009 and in 2010. The difference was turnout. In recent years in Virginia, low turnout elections have tended to favor more conservative candidates. And high turnout elections have tended to favor more liberal candidates.
Cecile Richards, the president of the Planned Parenthood Action Fund, implied that a similar pattern exists nationally. "In 2008," Richards told the pro-choice crowd, "81% of young women voted... And you know what the results were. In 2010, only 27% of young women voted." That year, Republicans regained control of the House of Representatives.
Shortly after Richards made her remarks, volunteers were taking names, phone numbers and email addresses from people in the crowd in an effort to build up canvassing lists for the November election.