HCANEF Partner Spotlight: Virginia Organizing Fighting for Reproductive Health, Rights & Justice in Wake of SCOTUS Repeal of Abortion Rights

Dec 8, 2022

Since the Supreme Court’s Dobbs’ decisionVirginia Organizing, an HCANEF partner in Virginia, has been bringing people together to protect abortion access in the Commonwealth.

Immediately following the June 24th decision, the State Governing Board of Virginia Organizing released a statement that emphasized their support of reproductive justice, lifted up our long-term work to dismantle racism, and cautioned against efforts to criminalize pregnancy. The statement ends by saying:

Virginia Organizing has been working for many years to dismantle systemic racism and end mass incarceration. We are well aware of the Commonwealth’s long history of oppression over the bodies of Black and other marginalized women. We don’t want to see Virginia interfere—yet again—in a woman’s freedom to make decisions about her own body, especially since these invasive laws are likely to be used to intimidate, criminalize, and threaten the lives of people of color. The Commonwealth must respect the rights and dignity of all Virginians.”

Shortly after, the Virginian-Pilot interviewed board member Barbara Jefferson Harris for their piece titled “For Black women in Hampton Roads, barriers to reproductive healthcare are nothing new.” Leaders in Suffolk also published a letter in the Suffolk News-Herald expressing their concern about losing abortion rights.

Over the summer, the Danville Chapter partnered with grassroots leaders to support a panel discussion about reproductive justice and abortion access in the weeks after the decision was released. New people got involved in organizing for the first time, voicing their concerns and hopes for Virginia’s path forward. The Suffolk Chapter also held a cookout on Women’s Equality Day where members spoke with a legislative aide from U.S. Rep. Elaine Luria’s office to urge her continued support of abortion rights.

In September, Virginia Organizing offered its first Reproductive Justice Workshop during their annual statewide meeting, the Grassroots Gathering. Organizers discussed the history of reproductive justice, how it looks in Virginia, and what to expect in the upcoming General Assembly session and beyond.

After the workshop, the Waynesboro Chapter organized a community cookout with the Blue Ridge Abortion Fund so that they could raise awareness about their services. The cookout engaged community members in Waynesboro and created a safe and brave space for neighbors to discuss civic engagement and reproductive justice in the city. There was free food, live music, community resources, games and raffle prizes. Volunteers were available to encourage community members to restore their civil rights, register to vote, update voter registration, find polling locations for voters, and share information about the 2022 local ballot.

The Suffolk Chapter, after its successful cookout in August, held a barbershop talk series with Democratic Rep. Elaine Luria in October, pictured below. At the event, chapter leader Vonita Williams shared a powerful personal story about her own abortion experience.

In December, the Norfolk, Newport News, and Portsmouth Chapters held a virtual workshop on reproductive justice for the Hampton Roads area. Virginia Organizing leaders facilitated the workshop, gave a history of reproductive justice, told personal stories, and discussed the work they planned to do during the General Assembly session to block legislation that would impose new restrictions on abortion rights. They also led a general discussion of how the issue impacts the community and what they can do about it.

Virginia Organizing—alongside so many partners, allies, and community members—has a long history of advocating for policies that help working families and marginalized people in Virginia. Over the years, they have helped win expanded health coverage under the ACA and Medicaid, hundreds of millions of dollars for affordable housing, restoration of voting rights for formerly incarcerated people, and much more. The organization’s work to restore reproductive rights and improve access for people who need abortion is very much in this tradition. Virginia Organizing is committed to working toward making their state one that respects and embodies the value of reproductive justice.