About 300 demonstrators gathered at the Virginia state house for song, prayer and speeches, as lawmakers again debated restrictions on abortion and contraception.
Rev. Daniel Boone of the Valley View Church in Buchanan, Va. hopes a bill introduced by Sen. Tom Garrett of Lynchburg will pass. It would bar the state from paying for abortions when low-income women are told their fetus has gross physical or mentally incapacitating deformities.
"These women are going through a terrible time," says Cianti Stewart-Reed, executive director of Planned Parenthood Advocates of Virginia. "Their pregnancies have gone terribly wrong, and they don't have the money to terminate these pregnancies."
The legislative session lasts about 45 days. In that time, lawmakers may also consider undoing a health department requirement that abortion clinics meet architectural requirements written for new hospitals; a rule that threatens to close most clinics in the state. Virginia must also decide whether to expand Medicaid as part of health care reform.
The federal government has pledged to pay the full cost of expansion.