WASHINGTON -- A group of Virginians has formed a political action committee to defeat state lawmakers who have been going after access to abortion and contraception, planning to support pro-choice men and women to take their place.
The Women's Strike Force will be raising money and actively recruiting candidates of all political parties who support women's reproductive rights.
Leslie Byrne, the first woman elected to the U.S. House of Representatives from Virginia, is one of the leaders of the PAC.
"A number of us were bemoaning the fact that the Virginia legislature had turned into a cross between a frat house and a clown college," she said. "We decided to do something about it. Many of us had been in these wars since the '70s -- and fought for ourselves and our friends in the '70s, our daughters in the '80s and '90s and now it looks like we're fighting for our granddaughters."
The PAC launched Monday morning and in the first hour, raised $1,600, said Rebecca Geller, the spokeswoman for Women's Strike Force. Since then, it has received donations nationwide ranging from $5 to $10,000, she said. Geller did not have a number for today's fundraising. It has not yet decided on specific candidates to support.
Byrne said the PAC would look at "marginal districts where we can make a difference, whether it's a primary or a general election." She said the effort also would need to look at removing some women lawmakers from office, pointing to state Sen. Jill Vogel (R-Winchester), who sponsored the legislation mandating that women seeking abortions undergo invasive ultrasound imaging.
"We've got some pretty bad women in there," said Byrne. "Not all women have the message yet that all women deserve respect. There's a lot of self-loathing among certain women, I guess."
Vogel's office did not return a request for comment.
Katherine Waddell served as an independent lawmaker in the Virginia General Assembly and was previously a Republican. She said the GOP risks losing the support of many women if it keeps focusing on these issues of abortion and contraception.
"So many of my friends are Republican women. They say to me all the time, 'What are we going to do about this? We're tired of this. What can we do to make it stop?'" she said.
"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," she said. "I've watched them move completely away from that to total government intrusion into women's personal private lives."
The Virginia House of Delegates revised and passed ultrasound legislation after an outcry from the public and reservations from Gov. Bob McDonnell (R). The new bill requires women to receive an external, transabdominal ultrasound rather than a more invasive transvaginal ultrasound. It is now being considered by the state Senate.