RICHMOND, Va. (WRIC) — Two separate abortion rights protests were staged in downtown Richmond along Broad Street – outside city hall, and outside the U.S. District Court courthouse, after the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision to end the constitutional right to abortion came earlier today.
With the court’s ruling Friday, 13 states with so-called “trigger laws” are set to ban abortions, and about half of the states in the country are expected to impose some form of ban or restriction moving forward.
While Virginia’s abortion laws will not immediately change, more than 1,000 people were compelled to take to the streets of Richmond to protest the sweeping implications nationwide.
“I burst into tears,” said Rain Burroughs who admitted to having an abortion after discovering she was pregnant. Burroughs said she got pregnant with a boyfriend who walked out on her after allegedly violently assaulting her.
“I did not want to be connected with a person that was so violent that he would try to kill me,” she said.
The groups eventually merged outside of city hall, where people took turns using a megaphone to speak — large applause broke out when one person said “shut this city down,” and “shut this country down.”
Richmond police were on hand at the peaceful protest, and kept one lane of westbound traffic on Broad Street clear for vehicles to pass through the crowd that spilled into the street.
Police Chief Gerald Smith told 8News that police officers were stationed there to ensure people are able to safely exercise their First Amendment right.
There was resistance from at least two people to not overflow into the open lane. Chief Smith then told officers to ensure body cameras were on to show they instructed people to clear the open traffic lane.
In Virginia, Republicans signaled intentions to propose a ban on abortions in the wake of the decision. Gov. Glenn Youngkin has tapped four Republican state lawmakers to work on legislation for 2023 with a 15-week threshold, but a spokesperson acknowledged Friday that a compromise could be after 20 weeks.
While not visible at the downtown protest, 8News spoke with anti-abortion advocates Friday, including Family Foundation volunteer Tywanna Hampton.
“I hope that this will cause churches and other conservative organizations—people that have the family at the forefront—will step up their games as far as helping women in an unwanted pregnancy or an unplanned pregnancy,” Hampton said.
Around 7 p.m. the crowd marched west on Broad before ending at Monroe Park on VCU’s campus.
“We shouldn’t be surprised to be let down by this country anymore,” said ‘Em,’ as they identified themself.
Christopher Maxwell proclaimed “they’re [the Supreme Court] not gonna stop at Roe v. Wade.”
Michael Bell feared the court’s decision is irreversible, “unfortunately it’s a done deal, and I don’t know if it will ever change.”
Crystal Steines worries for her 11-year-old daughter, telling 8News after leaving the march, “they’re taking away women’s rights.”
“It’s not just for the women, for the children too,” Steines said.
8News asked Bell and Steines who exactly they were protesting to, given the highest court in the land made the landmark ruling.
Both expressed they did not immediately know, however they explicitly mentioned plans to vote in upcoming elections, including the congressional midterms less than five months away.