We all knew this was coming, but the news is no less nauseating. On Friday, the Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade and Planned Parenthood v. Casey. The case — Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization — leaves abortion in the hands of state legislatures, meaning each state will have different, complex procedures to access abortion. University President Jim Ryan sent out an email Friday detailing what this ruling means for University students, clarifying that under existing Virginia law, there will be no immediate changes to abortion accessibility. As such, U.Va. Health will maintain its current services. While this is good news for now, it does not ensure protection in the future.
Following this ruling, Governor Youngkin is looking to ban most abortions after 15 weeks of pregnancy. Though Youngkin says he is open to negotiating up to 20 weeks with exceptions for rape, incest and cases where the parent’s life is at risk, we believe implementing any new restrictions on abortion is a step in the wrong direction. Other Virginia Republicans have more extreme ambitions. Delegate Wren Williams (R-Patrick), for instance, wants to see a full ban. And elected Republican legislators seem to be working fast. Youngkin has already asked four antiabortion Republican legislators to begin working on legislation to introduce when the General Assembly returns in January. Let us be clear — abortion should be kept legal in Virginia.
In the General Assembly, support for abortion accessibility is divided among party lines. While the Virginia House of Delegates has a Republican majority, the Senate holds a slim Democratic majority — 21 to 19. Theoretically, the Senate could block most abortion bans. However, should even just one Democrat decide to vote in favor of a more restrictive abortion policy, a tie would be broken by Republican Lt. Gov Winsome Earle-Sears, who supports abortion bans six weeks into a pregnancy. Unfortunately, Senator Joe Morrissey (D-Richmond) makes this tie more than likely. Morrissey previously stated that he would consider 20 week limits on abortion. So, there is a real threat that Virginians will lose many of their current abortion rights.
We would be remiss not to acknowledge that throughout the course of American history, bodily autonomy has often been granted to cis white men and denied to others. To the six justices who joined the majority in Friday’s opinion, and to Youngkin and those legislators who wish to restrict abortion statewide, we say this — a person’s right to bodily autonomy should never be subject to any government, any court’s or any person’s authority.
Even more, abortion restrictions would not affect all Virginians equally. Low-income, LGBTQ+ and marginalized communities have always been systematically disadvantaged in accessing abortion compared to their more privileged counterparts. Under the Dobbs v. Jackson ruling, this is only further exacerbated. The U.S. will quickly become a patchwork of abortion protections and bans in which only the rich and privileged will be able to make long, expensive trips across state lines to access abortion. Further, these same communities without access to abortion are those who often lack access to affordable housing, health care and the other types of support available to families once their children are born. Abortion accessibility has always been yet another axis of inequity amidst a multitude of intersectional discrimination.
Above all, we join our fellow students in frustration and anger. There isn’t an election cycle for all Virginia General Assembly members between now and the January legislative session, but that doesn’t mean we cannot do anything. It is still important to reach out to your elected officials — call, email and demand that they respect every individual’s right to abortion. If you are able, donate to abortion funds — we have compiled a non-exhaustive list below. Make your voice heard — vote, advocate and support however you can.
A non-exhaustive list of abortion funds —
- Blue Ridge Abortion Fund
- National Network of Abortion Funds
- Whole Woman’s Health of Charlottesville
- New River Abortion Access Fund
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