New PAC, the Women's Strike Force, Launches in Response to Anti-abortion Bills in Virginia

Virginia state Senate Republican leader Thomas Norment, left, puts his head in his hand as he listens to debate on a bill requiring an ultrasound before an abortion in Richmond, Virginia, on Tuesday. The measure passed, 21 to 19. (AP Photo/Steve Helber)Virginia state Senate Republican leader Thomas Norment, left, puts his head in his hand as he listens to debate …With a new version of the controversial ultrasound bill approved by the Virginia Senate and the recently tabled "personhood" bill still in the spotlight, a bipartisan group of activists and politicians this week launched a new state Political Action Committee, the Women's Strike Force, to raise money to support elected officials who are willing to fight for women's reproductive rights.

Outraged by what they say is a legislative assault on women, members of the PAC's leadership team have sounded a call to action. "It is time to push back against this intrusive legislation into our personal lives," former Virginia Delegate Katherine Wadell, an Independent, said when the PAC launched on Monday. "[I] was very active in the Republican Party, and it's upsetting to watch what's happened to the party because we always believed in limited government and individual freedom and the right to privacy. I've watched them move completely away from that to total government intrusion into women's personal private lives. There is a section of the Republican party who respect women's reproductive rights, and they need to be heard."

That's the main point of the PAC, co-founder and spokesperson Rebecca Geller told Yahoo! Shine. "Our goal is to raise money to recruit and train candidates who will defeat the supporters of legislation like this," Geller explained. "The people in the [Virginia] state senate and house who are supporting the personhood and ultrasound bills are our targets."

A watered-down version of the ultrasound bill passed in the state Senate Tuesday night, 21 to 19; it returns to the House, where lawmakers last week approved a much harsher version of the bill that required women seeking abortions to first undergo an invasive trans-vaginal ultrasound.

"I find it very amusing that legislators are asking to be commended for removing the trans-vaginal ultrasound requirement," Geller said of the bill, which the governor is expected to sign into law. "Excuse me, we should be congratulating you for not raping us?"

The legislation "really is an attack on reproductive rights," Geller says. "It's a clear sign of legislators not trusting women to make correct judgements or have a right to privacy."

The Women's Strike Force -- a group of democrats and republicans, activists and politicians -- came together almost overnight, Geller says. They held their first conference call on Sunday and, after pulling an all nighter, the leadership team was ready to go: On Monday morning they incorporated, launched their website, and sent out their first press release.

"The steps that have been taken by lawmakers in Virginia and states across the country to deprive women of their reproductive rights are a slap in the face to every American wife, mother, sister and daughter in our country," Robin Abbott, a former Democratic Delegate to the Virginia General Assembly, said in the press release urging people to donate to the PAC.

An hour later, Geller says, there was an item in the Washington Post and $1,600 in the PAC's coffers. That night, they were mentioned on the Rachel Maddow Show on MSNBC.

Since then, "we've had people contacting us from over 40 states," Geller told Shine. "We've raised donations from as little as $5 to as large as $10,000. People are really fired up."

"I think people are worried about two things," Geller says. "I think they're worried about what's happening in Virginia, and I think they see it as a sign of things to come in other states."

Though the PAC was formed in response to legislation that mainly affects women, men are concerned about the controversy as well. Activist and Women's Strike Force team member Steven Cochran said on Wednesday that he is "outraged and astonished that so many sons, husbands and brothers are ignoring the needs and rights of the women of the Commonwealth of Virginia." He and others are urging people to donate to the PAC.

"As a former member of the General Assembly and Virginia's first woman in Congress, I fought for women's rights in the '70s, '80s and '90s," said Leslie Byrne. "We must move the commonwealth and the nation forward, not backslide to denying women rights."

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