Hundreds of women, men and children took advantage of mild October weather to take part in an abortion rights march in Richmond that echoed similar events in cities across the U.S. on Saturday.
One of the first speakers addressing the crowd was state Sen. Jennifer McClellan, D-Richmond, who got right to the point: “We got a little election coming up.”
McClellan, who unsuccessfully opposed Terry McAuliffe for her party’s nomination for governor, said she was a year old in 1973 when the U.S. Supreme Court decided Roe v. Wade. She urged the crowd to vote on Nov. 2.
“We could be Texas ... we could be Mississippi, we could be Florida. This is what is at stake in this election,” she said.
Texas recently enacted a law that bans most abortions after roughly six weeks. Reproductive rights are an issue in next month’s elections in Virginia and elsewhere.
Democrats fear Republican wins could lead to new laws restricting abortion, which abortion opponents — who marched at the state Capitol last month and urged their supporters to vote — would favor.
Terry McAuliffe, the Democratic candidate for governor, supports legal abortion. His Republican opponent, Glenn Youngkin, said in a secretly recorded video that Republicans could “start going on offense” on restricting abortion if they gain control of the House of Delegates, where all 100 seats are up for election. Also at stake are the offices of lieutenant governor and attorney general.
Saturday’s event in Richmond, “Bans Off Our Bodies,” was organized by several groups favoring reproductive rights and held at Diversity Richmond on Sherwood Avenue next to Interstate 95.
The drone of highway traffic and an occasional truck horn blast — unclear if the honking was pro, con or unrelated — prompted one speaker, Andrea Miller, to urge the rest of them to shout when it was their turn. “We want you to be heard on the other side of the freeway!” she said.
Asked why she was involved, one of the organizers, Robyn Carter, laughed and said, “I don’t like being told what to do, as most people.”
“But, yeah, why are we going backwards? This has already been decided, this has already been done. Why are we trying to rewrite history?” she said of abortion opponents’ efforts to restrict or bar abortions.
The speakers included Lucy Hartman, the field director for Planned Parenthood Advocates; Steph Nash, the Virginia advocacy director of the Whole Woman’s Health Alliance; Kendra Sutton El, executive director of Birth in Color; Monica Hutchinson, an organizer with Family Friendly Economy; and Rae Pickett, a trained abortion doula who supports women before, during or after abortions.
Hartman also urged the crowd to vote and get others to vote to provide abortion access.
Pickett noted that she was a doula and said, “I’m proud to provide this service.” She read to those in attendance about one of the women she helped; the woman decided to have an abortion and asked anonymously on Facebook where she could go.
Pickett said hundreds of responses urged the woman to continue the pregnancy. “I was the only voice to say to her that, ‘Your decision is over and I am here to support you.’ ”
Reached afterward, Carter and Pickett, who is also with Planned Parenthood, estimated there were 800 to 1,000 people in attendance.
Police did not respond Saturday to a request for a crowd estimate.
Carter said the March from Diversity Richmond to Broad Street went smoothly.