RICHMOND, Va. – At a press conference celebrating Jan. 22 as a “Day of Women,” the Virginia House Democratic Caucus today rolled out key legislative priorities on women’s issues.
The press conference was led by Caucus Chair Charniele Herring of Alexandria, who is the first woman to chair a Caucus in the House of Delegates.
“First they marched, then they ran, and now they serve” Caucus Chair Herring said of the eleven new Democratic women in our Caucus, eight of whom were featured on the Jan. 29 cover of TIME Magazine.
Just over a year ago, House Republicans passed a woman-shaming resolutionmarking Jan. 22, the anniversary of Roe v. Wade, as a “Day of Tears” on which flags are to be flown at half-staff.
Today, Delegate Kelly Convirs-Fowler spoke on her resolution that would instead mark the date as a “Day of Women.”
“We will not be silenced, we will not be shamed,” said Delegate Convirs-Fowler, who urged Virginians to call their delegates and ask them to support the resolution.
Delegate Debra Rodman, a professor who heads the Women’s Studies Department at Randolph-Macon, is Delegate Convirs-Fowler’s chief co-patron.
Delegate Kaye Kory introduced legislation that would ensure that women will have their reproductive health needs covered by their insurance.
“My bill will make sure that you cannot deny anyone reproductive health coverage under any basis,” Delegate Kory said.
Delegate Jennifer Carroll Foy spoke on legislation she is co-patroning with Delegate Jennifer Boysko that ends the sales tax on female sanitation products.
“Taxing these products is a perfect example of what happens when women don't have a seat at the table,” said Delegate Carroll Foy. “We as women have set of experiences that have not been taken seriously at the General Assembly previously. That's why we ran in record numbers last year because we felt that we were not being heard.”
Delegate Kathy Tran spoke on her bill that requires contracting agencies to institute sexual harassment training.
“We must tackle sexual harassment in the workplace,” said Delegate Tran. “A necessary first step is educating supervisors and workers on what sexual harassment is...We cannot have a strong and productive workforce, if we don’t have safe workplaces. I look forward to working with all my colleagues on this important issue.”
Delegate Vivian Watts presented her bill that requires the General Assembly to adopt the Commonwealth Workplace Harassment Policy (CWHP). The bill includes protections for all who work with or visit the General Assembly, including staff, interns, lobbyists, reporters, vendors, and members of the public.
“It requires that basic policies be adopted such as mandatory training, and readily available information and public notice on how to report harassment,” said Delegate Watts adding that her bill “underscores that every member must recognize the position of power our office embodies, both actual power and perceived power, and that every member has a significant burden to make sure our actions never abuse that power.”
Delegate Karrie Delaney spoke on her bill, which invalidates settlement agreements and NDA clauses when a sexual harassment victim is not represented by counsel.
“When predators are able to buy the silence of their victims, we as society pay the ultimate cost – the cost of allowing more innocent people to become victims of sexual violence,” Delegate Delaney said.
Delegate Eileen Filler-Corn spoke on her bill that requires high schools to teach students about consent. She also spoke on Delegate Rip Sullivan’s bill, of which she is a co-patron, that protects those reporting a sexual assault from prosecution for underage drinking or public intoxication.
“No one should fear reporting an assault to the police because of potential prosecution for underage drinking,” said Delegate Filler-Corn. “I am proud to call you, Rip, and the men in our caucus, allies in this fight. Protecting women is not a red or blue issue. It is bipartisan. It is my hope that we work together to make Virginia a safer, more secure place for women.”
Delegate Jennifer Boysko spoke on her bill, the Whole Woman’s Health Act, that would invalidate unconstitutional restrictions on abortion that are still on the books in Virginia in the wake of Whole Woman’s Health v. Hellerstedt. Delegate Boysko introduced the bill last year, but it was not even granted a hearing.
“Politicians, not doctors, are pushing these sham restrictions on a woman’s ability to access abortion,” said Delegate Boysko. “A woman is fully capable of making thoughtful decisions about her family, future, and health.”
Other bills introduced on women’s issues this session include a bill from Delegate Delores McQuinn that expands workplace protections for pregnant and nursing women and a bill by Delegate Kathleen Murphy that requires employers to institute sexual harassment training.
Video from the press conference can be viewed HERE, and photos from the press conference can be viewed HERE. Reporters may publish both photos and video.