Protests moved through downtown Richmond on Friday; Youngkin eyes 15-week abortion ban
Patrick Larsen, Dave Cantor and Roberta Oster reported this story
The U.S. Supreme Court overturned the Roe v. Wade decision today, ending almost 50 years of federal protections around access to abortion.
Justices voted 6-3 in the Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization case that challenged the 1973 ruling.
States now are able to implement more localized laws restricting abortion access. Twenty-two states have laws in place already that could be used to restrict access, according to the Guttmacher Institute.
"The Supreme Court of the United States has rightfully returned power to the people and their elected representatives in the states,” Gov. Glenn Youngkin wrote in a Friday press release. “I'm proud to be a pro-life Governor and plan to take every action I can to protect life. ... We can build a bipartisan consensus on protecting the life of unborn children, especially when they begin to feel pain in the womb, and importantly supporting mothers and families who choose life.”
At a rally organized by Planned Parenthood Advocates of Virginia, advocates and lawmakers gathered at the State Capitol to speak out against the U.S. Supreme Court decision striking down Roe v Wade. VIDEO TRANSCRIPT
A spokesperson for the governor said in a statement that Youngkin asked Sens. Siobhan Dunnavant (R-Henrico) and Steve Newman (R-Bedford), and Dels. Kathy Byron (R-Bedford) and Margaret Ransone (R-Westmoreland) to work on the issue when the General Assembly reconvenes in January, proposing Virginia bar abortions after the 15th week of pregnancy. Many of Virginia's abortion protections are codified in law, which can take time to pull back. “This outrageous ruling does not change the law here in Virginia,” Sen. Jennifer McClellan (D-Richmond) said in an emailed statement. “Because of our strong state laws, abortion remains legal in Virginia. As other states face restrictions, Virginia will remain a safe haven for abortion care. We welcome everyone to make their reproductive health decisions free of government interference.”
At a press conference organized by Planned Parenthood in Richmond's Capitol Square Friday afternoon, McClellan spoke alongside a number of pro-abortion-rights advocates and politicians. Several expressed concern over the decision and swore to keep abortion legal in Virginia.
"We again are here because of the decisions we all make when it comes time to vote," said Kenda Sutton-El, executive director of Birth in Color RVA. She called for people to actively resist Youngkin's proposal for a 15-week abortion ban: "So, am I going to see you all in January or am I not?"
At a protest later in the day — also initially organized by Planned Parenthood but attended by other left-leaning groups — people marched down East Broad Street. Chants wavered from slogans around abortion being health care to ownership of the streets.
Susanna Gibson, of Richmond, was among those marching at about 6 p.m. She was accompanied by her two children.
"Reproductive rights, women's rights [being] viewed as health care has always been extremely important to me," she said. "And I think it's really important that my kids grow up understanding that and really seeing that and feeling that — not just saying, 'Oh, yeah, you know, girls and boys are equal.' That's actually not what they're being shown by our government."
Her son Jack explained why he was there with his mother and sister, 6-year-old Lila.
"It's because women deserve the right to use their bodies just like boys," the 8-year-old said.
The marchers wound their way back to U.S. District Court, where Planned Parenthood employees gave and asked for testimonials from people in attendance. They also passed out candles for a vigil.
As the evening progressed, the crowd moved east down the street and stood out front of Richmond City Hall. A lane of westbound traffic was blocked by protesters, but police kept another open to cars.
To prepare for demonstrations, the Virginia Department of General Services announced that it would install protective fencing in certain areas of Capitol Square on Friday. The square will remain open, unless DGS “determines there are safety concerns that require closure.”
Recent abortion coverage from VPM News
This story was updated at 8:57 June 24 to add comments from people who attended a protest along East Broad Street.
This story was updated at 1:36 p.m. June 24 to include the governor's proposal to restrict abortion after the 15th week of pregnancy and comments from an afternoon press conference. A further update was posted at 4:50 p.m. to include info from the Department of General Services.