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SCOTUS draft worries abortion supporters

Charlottesville’s clinics that provide abortions won’t be immediately affected if the Supreme Court does in fact overturn Roe v. Wade, the historic court decision that legalized the medical procedure.

However, community members and elected officials are worried about what the court’s decision, outlined in a draft published Monday by Politico, would mean for abortion services in Virginia and for other rights.

Chief Justice John Roberts said in a statement Tuesday that the draft was authentic but not the court’s final decision in a case about whether a Mississippi law that prohibited nearly all abortions after 15 weeks was constitutional.

That has local legislators concerned.

Del. Sally Hudson, D-Charlottesville, said Tuesday that state law protects a person’s ability to have an abortion.

“No matter what the Supreme Court does, abortion will stay legal in Virginia for now,” Hudson said.

But Hudson said she is concerned that parts of the draft opinion target the court’s 1992 decision in Planned Parenthood v. Casey that prohibited states placing significant obstacles in the path of a pregnant person seeking an abortion.

Hudson said that if the court strikes down that decision, the state’s executive branch could add more steps or regulations. In recent years, Virginia Democrats have worked to expand access to abortion, including allowing a woman to consult with a provider online and receive medication in the mail.

“There’s no law protecting that,” Hudson said. “The General Assembly on its own can’t continue to protect that kind of access, which makes a huge deal for a lot of patients to get abortion care at the time when it is safest and most convenient and most private.”

Virginia Gov. Glenn Youngkin did not say what steps the executive branch, which he leads, would take. He said there’s guarantee on how the court will ultimately rule.

“It’s premature to speculate on what the Supreme Court’s decision will be, however, we learned from listening to Virginians over the last year that we have much common ground on this issue,” he said in a statement. “I am pro-life, and I have been very clear about that since the day I launched my campaign.”

Charlottesville has two clinics that provide abortions, among other services. Amy Hagstrom Miller, president of Whole Woman’s Health, said in statement that two in-person clinics in Virginia, including one in Charlottesville, were open Tuesday.

“Our patients are always at the center of everything we do,” Miller said. “That’s why we’re also working every day to come up with innovative and strategic ways to prepare for the final ruling the justices hand down.”

Planned Parenthood operates the other clinic, which also was open Tuesday. The national organization’s CEO Alexis McGill Johnson said in a statement that the draft opinion is “horrifying and unprecedented.”

“Understand that Planned Parenthood and our partners have been preparing for every possible outcome in this case and are built for the fight,” Johnson said. “Planned Parenthood health centers remain open, abortion is currently still legal, and we will continue to fight like hell to protect the right to access safe, legal abortion.”

In the draft opinion that ruled in favor of Mississippi, Justice Samuel Alito argued that “Roe was egregiously wrong from the start” and that power to regulate or ban abortions should be returned to the states.

The draft struck a sour chord among area supporters of reproductive rights, including abortion. More than 50 people rallied in front of the Charlottesville federal courthouse.

“I came here today because I was really disappointed when I read the news last night,” said Emily Hatton, a University of Virginia student and one of dozens of protestors at the courthouse Tuesday evening.

“I believe abortion is healthcare and everyone who is pregnant has the right to determine what they do with their bodies,” Hatton said. “And I don’t believe that we can trust that states will protect that right.”

Hudson said Virginia could become a “safe haven” for patients throughout the region who are seeking an abortion.

“There are a lot of other people who are counting on us because we should expect most of our neighbors in the south to pass aggressive abortion bans as soon as Roe is overturned,” Hudson said.

The same is true of neighbors to the west. Kentucky and Tennessee both have so-called trigger laws on the books, which would immediately outlaw abortions if the Supreme Court strikes down Roe. West Virginia has a law that predates Roe and bans abortion, which could be enforced.

For Amy Laufer, the implications of the draft opinion are bigger than abortion. The chairwoman of the Albemarle County Democratic Party founded Virginia’s List, an organization that works to elect more women to state office.

She said the draft opinion showed why electing more women who support abortion rights is important.

“If we have women elected, these things won’t be on the table,” Laufer said. “I actually feel even more passionate about this issue.”

Kobby Hoffman, a member of the Charlottesville National Organization of Women’s board of directors, agreed.

“I would tell people to pay attention, talk to people, get comfortable articulating what this is all about for yourself and then put the elbow grease in and elect the people that you think are important to be in office because they matter. The laws they pass matter,” Hoffman said.

“It’s our responsibility, every one of us, if we want to continue to have the liberties and freedoms that we have,” she said.

Providers and abortion-rights supporters have been preparing for the end of Roe after former President Donald Trump was able to cement a 6-3 conservative majority on the court.

Kathryn Laughon, a nurse at the University of Virginia Medical Center, protested the nomination hearings for two of the newly seated justices — Brett Kavanaugh and Amy Coney Barrett — in part because of the threat they posed to abortion rights in America.

“Abortion is healthcare,” she said. “It should not be regulated in any way that other healthcare is not regulated. It’s safer than pregnancy.”

Laughon added that restricting access to abortions will disproportionately impact poor people who are pregnant as communities of color.

“The burden will not be felt equally across individuals,” she said.

Source: www.dailyprogress.com

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