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Virginians Are Fighting for Women’s Health Care

Virginia U.S. Senator Tim Kaine has been among the cascade of leading lawmakers to react strongly to the U.S. Supreme Court decision last week to overturn the 50-year history of Roe v Wade that permitted a woman’s right to terminate a pregnancy. In his latest statement on the subject, Kaine said, “I am deeply disturbed by last week’s news that the Supreme Court has voted to overturn Roe v. Wade.”

He continued, “Roe v. Wade has been settled U.S. policy for nearly five decades. It has protected women’s rights to make fundamental…choices about issues of reproductive health. After the court has overturned decades of precedent protecting the right to choose, I’ve been working to restore that right legislatively. And I’m talking to colleagues on both sides of the aisle, trying to find bipartisan support to federally protect reproductive freedom.”

Sen. Kaine’s strong words were echoed by his Virginia U.S. Senate colleague Mark Warner, and by Falls Church’s representative in Congress Don Beyer, who said, “This ruling from a right-wing Supreme Court majority is a dark moment for America. These conservative justices abandoned 50 years of precedent in a decision which, as Justice Breyer’s dissent put it, ‘says that from the very moment of fertilization, a woman has no rights to speak of.’

“Republicans immediately reacted to this decision by criminalizing essential health care for women” in various states, “introducing laws to ban abortion at the federal level. In some states, laws already triggered by this ruling will force birth in cases of rape or incest. In Virginia, the Republican Governor and Republicans in the…General Assembly signaled that they too will seek to sharply limit bodily autonomy. We now face an assault on basic human rights…criminalizing basic health and reproductive care will have enormous human impacts across this country, and forced birth laws will also do tremendous damage to personal and economic freedom, particularly on low income families and families in rural areas.

“The broader implications of this ruling are profound and terrifying. Justice Alito wrote that the decision would threaten ‘no other right,’ but this prediction was immediately undercut by Justice Thomas, who wrote a concurring opinion which said that, using this ruling as precedent, the Court should revisit rulings that protect same-sex relationships, marriage equality, and contraception.

“This ruling cannot and will not be the last word — we will fight for bodily autonomy and freedom. The House voted to codify Roe v Wade protections in September, the most important and effective step Congress can take. The Senate must recognize that protecting essential health care matters so much more than arcane procedural rules, and do what it takes to protect abortion rights…I have heard already from…many constituents in Northern Virginia who are deeply upset about this; to them and to everyone across the country who is concerned and speaking out: I support you, I am with you, and I will do all I can to help with my voice and my vote.”

THE SUPREME COURT STRUCK DOWN ROE V WADE last week, undoing a decades-worth of Constitutional protections for women in the country and further eroding their freedom over private healthcare decisions. Demonstrations, led by pro-choice activists across the nation, expressed in full-view the desire of many Americans to keep abortion rights from further tampering. Justice Thomas suggested going after previous SCOTUS rulings that deal with same-sex marriage and LGBTQ+ rights. At the state level, abortions remain legal in Virginia, although Governor Youngkin has expressed support for a 15-week ban. (Photo: J. Michael Whalen)

(Beyer voted for the Women’s Health Protection Act to codify Roe v. Wade protections when the House passed the bill in September. He is the co-author of the Supreme Court Term Limits Act and a cosponsor of the Judiciary Act). In Virginia, abortion remains legal, where “any physician licensed by the Board of Medicine” is legally allowed to “terminate or attempt to terminate a human pregnancy or aid or assist in the termination” of a pregnancy “during the second trimester…and prior to the third trimester of pregnancy” (as per the Code of Virginia). Third trimester abortions are legal only when the well-being of the mother is at risk.

Having until now remained relatively silent on his opinions toward abortion rights, Gov. Youngkin, following the SCOTUS ruling, has begun pushing for a 15-week ban. If enacted, it would significantly reduce the available opportunities for women seeking abortion.

Falls Church’s Delegate Marcus Simon told the News-Press that news of the SCOTUS decision was “disappointing but did not come as a total surprise.” He reiterated that “nothing changes for Virginians” at this time. Virginians continue to have “access to [contraceptive] medication” as well as “access to [abortion] clinics.” However, he did concede that now more than before, “Republicans are emboldened” and have as a result introduced the idea of a 15-week ban in Virginia. Simon expressed his support for “codifying the protections that were provided by Roe.”

One focus relates to the new limitations imposed on abortion in various areas of the country, forcing people to embark on potentially dangerous trips to areas that provide legal abortion. As a result of this dynamic, Simon highlighted that legislators will need to consider the question of whether or not to create legislation for those who come to Virginia so that they are “not prosecuted from other jurisdictions.” He underscored the conflict at the core of this development, saying that it boils down to those who are “for prosecuting women” based on “their healthcare decisions” and those who support “allowing them to keep [their health] between them and their…provider.”

Delegate Kaye Kory representing the 38th District adjacent Falls Church, expressed similar thoughts, noting the hypocrisy of the SCOTUS ruling, establishing that “states cannot be trusted to act to prevent gun violence (as when SCOTUS struck down New York State’s concealed carry law) but…ruling that states must handle the issue of women’s rights to make private health care decisions.” She stated her belief that new Justices must be appointed who “recognize the nonpartisan role of the judicial branch built upon precedent as we work to enshrine abortion protections.”

“This is the first time in American history,” she said, that the Supreme Court “has ruled to actively strip away constitutional protections it has previously granted.” She stressed that with November being only four months away, it is crucial to begin registering to vote now, to “make a plan to vote…to volunteer on a campaign, contribute money…we must be proactive right now by building overwhelming voter support for the re-election of Congressional Representatives who will stand with us and be our ‘brick wall’ against those who would righteously dictate.”

“In the U.S. we protect the minority, but we do not give them the right to dictate to the majority—yet this is clearly the case with the takedown of Roe.” Falls Church’s State Sen. Dick Saslaw, currently serving as Senate Majority Leader, stated that the general response among his colleagues mirrors that of Simon and Kory, but that no one is “totally surprised.”

“If we all hold together,” he added, “we can keep [abortion] totally legal in Virginia.”