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Hundreds, fearing the overturn of Roe v. Wade, march in Hampton Roads

Virginian  Pilot logo Virginian Pilot 5/15/2022 Ian Munro, The Virginian-Pilot
Abortion rights supporters rally in front of Virginia Beach's City Hall on Saturday. © Stephen M. Katz/The Virginian-Pilot/TNS Abortion rights supporters rally in front of Virginia Beach's City Hall on Saturday.

The Virginia Beach mother’s voice shook with emotion as she held the speakerphone.

The crowd of roughly 400 people outside the Virginia Beach courthouse shouted and cheered for Joyce Worthey as she shared the story of her difficult decision to get an abortion over three decades ago.

“It was the right thing for me and as my life has turned out, it has continued to be the right thing for me,” Worthey, 53, said after her speech.

She was one of hundreds who gathered Saturday across Hampton Roads to show support for abortion rights amid the threat of a landmark Supreme Court ruling being overturned.

If justices were to overturn Roe v. Wade, rules concerning abortion would be determined by the statehouse, and many were concerned about the outcome — not just in Virginia, but other states.

In Norfolk and Virginia Beach, attendants worried that would be just the first domino to fall in reducing women’s rights in years to come.

“What’s next?” asked Susan Hippen, candidate for Virginia House District 96 and a retired Navy master chief and Gold Star widow. “We know this is not their endgame.”

Like others, she’s starting to worry about potential legislative salvos against contraceptives, LGBTQ rights and even education. Protesters said showing up in person was more tangible than donating to a fund and even more necessary to help bring attention to upcoming elections.

Protesters said they see hypocrisy from anti-abortion activists who do not back economic supports for struggling mothers and families, such as food stamps or affordable child care.

“This is not just a privacy issue,” Hippen said. “It’s a class issue.”

Del. Kelly Fowler, D-Virginia Beach, said she attended Saturday to ensure her three daughters have access to abortion, if worst comes to worst and one is sexually assaulted.

That’s what made Sarah Halliburton, 35, show up outside the Norfolk courthouse with more than 100 others earlier Saturday.

Halliburton, of Port Norfolk, said she was raped by her stepfather in Texas when she was 11. She feared getting pregnant and what that would mean for her physically and emotionally.

“I gotta stand up for the other kids that are also being abused by guardians, family members or even somebody who’s grooming them,” she said. “And give them a chance to not have to go through the trauma of being pregnant, having the kid and then having to raise it or put it up for adoption.”

Other protesters had deeply personal stories about why they were advocating for abortion rights, including losing loved ones to failed coat hanger abortions.

For Worthey, the care she was able to get at Planned Parenthood was not only medically professional, but supportive, she said. She supports the organization because it doesn’t just provide abortions, but a myriad of services for women’s health.

“I want them to have the same opportunity to have that support that I had for all these young women,” Worthey said.

In Williamsburg, hundreds gathered along Monticello Avenue in front of the Williamsburg-James City County Courthouse.

Women, men, old and young held signs reading “Keep Your Laws Off My Body,” “First They Took Our Rights, Then They Took Our Bodies” and “We Will Not Go Back,” as they chanted “My body, my choice.” Passers-by honked in support.

Williamsburg resident Susan Thomas was there on behalf of girls like her granddaughters, who are 10 and 6.

“They’re too young for me to talk with them about this right now, but this is very important,” Thomas said. “My granddaughters and future generations need to have protection for their bodies.”

Some attended multiple protests. Norfolk’s Lillian Mazarakis, 19, marched in Williamsburg and Virginia Beach.

“I’ve been raped ... and I feel like an abortion should be a woman’s choice,” Mazarakis said. “She should never have to carry a child if she cannot physically have the kid or afford the kid, so we’re out here to support the whole world.”

©2022 The Virginian-Pilot. Visit pilotonline.com. Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.

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