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Watch now: Virginians speak out after Supreme Court overturns Roe

Tara Morand knows that if her mother had the option to get an abortion upon finding out she was pregnant she would have. But Morand, 51, was born in December 1970, roughly two years before abortion was legal in the United States.

“If my mother could have gotten an abortion, she probably would have gotten an abortion. And that’s OK,” Morand said in an interview. “We had a very difficult life because she had to have me.”

Morand said that as the Supreme Court’s decision to overturn Roe v. Wade materialized Friday morning, she and her co-workers went outside and screamed. Upon returning inside the real estate office where she works, Morand took a personal day. Having attended abortion rights protests since the 1980s, she found herself at Bell Tower in Capitol Square on Friday afternoon, ready to act.

Less than two months ago, participants in the annual March for Life rally convened at the Bell Tower, urging the court to uphold the Mississippi law challenged in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization, to effectively overturn Roe v. Wade.

The Supreme Court’s Friday decision to overturn Roe v. Wade now sends the issue of abortion back to state legislatures. Gov. Glenn Youngkin said Friday that he will seek to ban most abortions after 15 weeks.

Representatives of groups that oppose abortion issued statements hailing the decision.

Virginia Gans Turner, president of the Virginia Society for Human Life, said in a statement: “Virginians should be elated that the Supreme Court has overturned the dreadful Roe v. Wade decision and opened the door for the states to pass reasonable, protective laws for mothers and their unborn children at all stages of pregnancy.”

Victoria Cobb, president of the Family Foundation of Virginia, said in a statement: “Today, we pause to celebrate the right to life of babies around the nation being protected, but tomorrow the work begins in Virginia to protect life throughout the Commonwealth.”

Barry C. Knestout, bishop of the Catholic Diocese of Richmond, said in a statement: “Every life — both mother and children — is sacred and immeasurably loved and valued by God. I pray that throughout our nation — including here in Virginia — lawmakers will open their hearts to the opportunities before them to protect unborn children, support women in crisis pregnancies and promote life-affirming alternatives to abortion.”

In Richmond, frustration and anger over the Youngkin announcement was evident in Capitol Square, where Mayor Levar Stoney; state Sen. Jennifer McClellan, D-Richmond; and other community leaders and activists addressed a news conference.

“Although the governor wants to have a 15-week ban which is out of step with what a majority of Virginians want, we are gonna say ‘no,’ ” McClellan said. “We are going to say to the party that professed to care about parental rights ‘you will not insert yourself in the decision about whether to become a parent in the first place.’”

The call to action was unanimous across all speakers: “vote.”

Kenda Sutton-El, executive director of the group Birth in Color, petitioned everyone in the crowd, especially the white women, to know who they are voting for.

“… For the white women that I see standing out here, you guys are always out here with us. But when we looked at those data [points] from when the election [November 2021] was, you decided to play on your white privilege that you didn’t want to lose,” said Sutton-El, referring to the gubernatorial race in 2021.

Jamie Lockhart, executive director of Planned Parenthood Advocates of Virginia, said: “The future of abortion rights here in Virginia depends on our elected officials serving in Virginia. We are only one state Senate seat away from a Texas-style abortion law.”

Sutton-El said reduced access to abortions disproportionately affects Black women.

“This news is definitely devastating especially when Black women are three times more likely to die during childbirth than white women,” Sutton-El said. “To take away the right to have an abortion or not, when to have children, is appalling.”

Behind the leaders, a crowd of supporters held up signs saying “Abortion is Health Care,” “Bans off our bodies” and “Stand with Black women.”

The news conference ended abruptly because the gathered groups had just a 30-minute permit. Afterward, a march began on the sidewalks surrounding the Capitol. A group of abortion-rights supporters gathered at the Capitol’s gates, chanting “Overturn Roe, Hell No.”

St. Catherine’s School students Alexandra Walker, 17, and Sonia Krishna, 16, came to the protest with homemade signs they said they made when a draft of Supreme Court Justice Samuel Alito’s opinion was leaked to Politico in early May.

“It’s really important, especially young women who this is going to affect a lot, especially POC women, to get out and share ‘we really don’t want this,’” said Walker, referring to an acronym for people of color. “The majority of women in the United States don’t want this and don’t agree with this.”

Krishna said: “I’m here because I think it is fundamentally a human right to have safe abortions and it’s just unfair.” She added: “My grandma, my mom, they lived in a time where it was safe to do this.

“Now girls our age who could get pregnant, who can’t afford to have a baby, who were raped or any sort of horrible incident to happen where they do become pregnant, they now can’t have an abortion or they can’t have a safe abortion. That puts them at risk.”

Stephanie Nash, the Virginia advocacy director for Whole Woman’s Health Alliance, a nonprofit part of Whole Woman’s Health, an independent abortion provider that has clinics across the country, was at the Capitol on Friday afternoon.

While Nash, 39, anticipated the result of Friday’s decision, she said that when it became a reality, her heart sank, as someone who had an abortion in Milwaukee and she said it sank for her Texas colleagues. Nash said patients at the Whole Woman’s Texas clinics Friday morning were turned away as soon as the news hit.

“We had patients in the clinic at that time … and we have about 150 patients who were on the books between today and Sunday [in Texas],” Nash said.

Despite the court ruling, Nash said she will continue to do her work and advocate. Nash will keep coordinating efforts to help Texas patients come to Virginia or Baltimore to receive their procedures.

“For myself as a Black woman, my rights have always been stripped so this is another day for me, like another day in the neighborhood. But for the people that this will affect and that’s all of us, whether you are pregnant or not, whether you are gonna become pregnant or not, whether you are a man, whether you are Black, whether you are Latina, whether you are a Native American, this is going to affect all of us and it has affected all of us,” Nash said.

Two abortion-rights rallies were planned for Friday night in Richmond, one beginning at 6 p.m. at the federal courthouse and the other at 8 p.m. at the former site of the Robert E. Lee monument, which racial justice protesters informally renamed Marcus-David Peters Circle in June 2020.


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