Things Get Ugly in Virginia as Riot Police Crack Down on Pro-Choice Protesters

After whipping up a mighty storm of fury across the country, a bill in Virginia that would require women to have an ultrasound before being able to have an abortion caused some trouble more locally this weekend. About a thousand people turned out at the state capitol on Saturday to protest the bill, and 31 of them were arrested as police in riot gear shut the demonstration down.

The bill, as you may remember, first gained attention because it took the extraordinary step of requiring a woman to get an invasive transvaginal ultrasound before she could get an abortion. Governor Bob McDonnell said he wouldn't sign the bill in that form, so the state House and Senate amended the bill so that it now only requires an abdominal ultrasound (and excludes cases of rape or incest). Slightly less draconian, but still plenty objectionable in its current form, the bill is headed to the governor for his signature, which he has pledged to give.

The protesters turned out to oppose that bill and carried signs that said things like, "Gov. McDonnell get out of my vagina." They were not even remotely violent, but Capt. Raymond J. Goodloe of the Capitol Police said the protest was shut down after participants refused to leave the capitol steps. He said the Virginia State Police tactical field force (read: riot police) were called in because the group was, "getting really large and we didn't want things to get out of hand." The police carried some of the protesters away, and the crowd dispersed after arrests were made. (There are some great photos here.)

Ultimately, the 31 people—17 women and 14 men—who were arrested were charged with trespassing. The police response definitely comes across as overkill for such a non-threatening group, and this, combined with the fact that there has apparently been a heavy police presence at other women's rights gatherings in recent weeks, has only served to energize opposition to the bill even more. So, oddly enough, these arrests are probably going to be just about as effective at shutting down protests as ultrasounds are at dissuading people from getting abortions.

Hundreds demonstrate for women's rights at state Capitol, 31 arrested [Richmond Times-Dispatch]
30 arrested as hundreds protest ultrasound-abortion bill at State Capitol [WTVR]