Charlottesville rallies in support of Roe v. Wade
Those who gathered around the Free Speech Wall on the downtown mall may have thought public protests could still change votes on the Supreme Court which is poised to overturn Roe v. Wade and let states decide if abortion will be legal, but law professor Anne Coughlin said that would not happen.
"The court is not going to walk away from that decision. This is what we face," she told a crowd of about 300.
Coughlin argued abortion would be illegal in many states, because a majority on the supreme court define liberty based on a long outdated document.
"The current supreme court says that the meaning of liberty is fixed by the views of the white men who wrote the constitution," she explained. "So who were human beings at the time of the framing? African-Americans were property. They were not human beings. Their views on liberty were not part of the discussion. Likewise for women."
So what should those who support legal access to abortion do now? Fifth district congressional candidate Josh Throneburg urged demonstrators to vote, arguing the fate of a pregnancy must be decided by the pregnant woman alone.
"It shouldn’t be her partner. It shouldn’t be her pastor. It shouldn’t be her doctor. It shouldn’t be her parents, it shouldn’t be her friends, it shouldn’t be the U.S. government!" he said to a cheering audience.
And UVA professor Larycia Hawkins advised the crowd to organize for a long-term fight – much as conservatives have done.
"We’ve had a kind of long-term laziness. Marches in pussy hats, no offense, will not save us," she said. "Upper class white women assembling downtown or in D.C. flipping off Trump and Clarence Thomas as you pass by won’t do it. The extremists on the right have been successful because for 50 longer years they have attacked every level of government."
She suggested supporters of legal abortion pay special attention to state races, noting that where she comes from abortion is no longer allowed.
"Oklahoma passed a bill more draconian than Texas law last week," she noted. "Women who have abortions and those who transport them can be collected like fugitives and turned in, and for every person turned in the bounty hunter gets $10,000. Oklahoma’s governor, in addition to the $10,000 bounty, said that any provider of abortion in Oklahoma can be fined $100,000 minimum."
Deborah Arenstein urged donations to groups like the Blue Ridge Abortion Fund, where she works, to help women pay for timely services in states where abortion is still legal.
"With every passing day of pregnancy, abortion gets more expensive and more complicated," she explained. "It’s not something you can tuck away on a to-do list and save for. In clinic abortions start at $360 and get more expensive with each passing week. Later in pregnancy in Virginia an abortion can cost $2,200, and even later gestation pregnancies can cost $10,000 or more."
And rally organizer Andre Hakes suggested participants mark their calendars for another demonstration.
"This opinion is going to come out this summer – probably in July," she told the protesters. "There’s going to be a big march in D.C. Go to the march!"
Pro-choice rallies were also held in Washington, Richmond, Roanoke and Williamsburg.