Wednesday marked the 30th anniversary of the Supreme Court case Roe v. Wade. The court ruled 7-2 in favor of a woman’s legal right to an abortion.
The decision remains one of the most controversial and decisions in political, religious and social arenas.
The case has created debate in federal government and state legislatures and Virginia’s General Assembly is no exception.
In the House of the Delegates’ Jan. 22 floor session, three anti-abortion Republicans spoke out against the decision, and one Democrat chose to commemorate the anniversary. Among them were Delegates Richard H. Black, R-Loudoun; Winsome E. Sears, R-Norfolk; John A. Cosgrove, R-Chesapeake; and Viola O. Baskerville, D-Richmond.
“There are some people who refer to a beating heart that clearly identifies a human form and moving limbs as nonviable tissue manner,” Cosgrove said. “We must oppose partial birth abortion and work to protect those who are not yet born.”
Cosgrove paraphrased famous Virginian Patrick Henry when he said, “I would ask to give them liberty and not death.”
Delegate Viola Baskerville, D-Richmond, said there are several reasons why women can’t carry a pregnancy to full term and a woman has the right to choose.
On Jan. 23, the Virginia Pro-Choice Alliance sponsored the annual Pro-Choice Lobby Day at the Virginia General Assembly. Abortion rights advocates lobbied legislators to vote for bills they are supporting.
The House Courts of Justice Committee will meet today to act upon abortion related legislation. One bill not supported by abortion rights advocates is House Bill 1402. The bill requires a physician to obtain parental consent before performing an abortion on a girl younger than 18.
Star Cobbs, a Virginia Commonwealth University senior, said she hopes HB 1402 will be defeated this Monday.
“A girl may have to deliver the baby because of her parents’ wishes while she would rather (have) the abortion,” she said.
There were abortion rights marches in places like Washington, D.C., Chicago and Seattle Jan. 22 to celebrate Roe v. Wade, as well as anti-abortion marches. In Richmond, however, the decision was celebrated quietly in a candlelight vigil at the state Capitol.
The Richmond National Organization for Women sponsored the event to honor those who died because they did not have the right to safe and legal abortions and those who do not have the right to choose, such as poor, rural and military women.
Betsey Powell, chapter president of Richmond NOW, said feminists and other activists commemorated this year’s Roe v. Wade anniversary by renewing their commitment to ensure that full reproductive rights are accessible to all women.
Approximately 50 abortion rights advocates, male and female, participated in the vigil at the Capitol’s bell tower and listened to speakers, including one woman who had an abortion.
“Thirty years of Roe and we are still fighting opponents of women’s rights on this issue,” Powell said. “But NOW activists nationwide are raising awareness of the threat to safe, legal and accessible abortion and the importance of this right to women.”
There was one anti-abortion demonstrator at the vigil, but he kept his distance.
“I was glad the vigil was low-key and respectful because the decision is a huge part of American history and women’s rights,” Cobbs said.
There were about 15 VCU students that attended the vigil.
A recent CNN/USA Today/Gallup survey reported 38 percent of Americans believe abortion should be legal in most or all circumstances, while 42 percent believe it should be available in a few circumstances, such as to save the mother’s life, and 18 percent say abortion should never be legal. The survey reported that the public’s opinion on abortion has remained stable for the past 15 years.
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