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Why some Virginia women could face prison for seeking an abortion

Nearly 15,000 women in Virginia are on probation or parole – required by a court to live by a set of rules that, among other things, bars them from leaving the state.

“If you don’t abide by these conditions, you can be re-incarcerated,” says Wanda Bertram with the Prison Policy Initiative – a think tank focused on criminal justice issues.

Because so many southern states have banned abortion or will do so, Virginia is likely to see increased demand for the procedure, and women who live here could be unable to schedule an appointment soon enough. They could get care in Maryland, Pennsylvania, North Carolina or D.C., but Bertram says women who’ve been convicted of a crime might need permission from a parole or probation officer.

“These are individuals who may have the best interests of that person a heart. They may say, ‘Okay, that’s what you need,’ or they may go, ‘Well no, I don’t believe in abortion. No, you can’t do it.”

Her organization warns that on any given day, more than 660,000 women in this country are on probation or parole, and those living in states that have banned abortion may not be free to leave for places where the procedure is still legal.

Sandy Hausman is Radio IQ's Charlottesville Bureau Chief