Ken Plum: Life and struggles after Roe
The history of our country has been one of ever-evolving rights and freedom to fulfill the promises contained in the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution. The one notable exception occurred last month when the Supreme Court overturned the Roe v Wade decision of almost 50 years ago that had given women some control over their reproductive health decisions. It was as so many have cried out in horror the first time the Supreme Court had taken back a right that had been granted to citizens! The decision was concurred in by justices who had lied to get confirmed in their positions by saying that the issue of abortion was settled law.
Vice President Kamala Harris came to Virginia last Saturday to hold a roundtable discussion with state legislators and community organization members on the steps that need to be taken to overcome the ramifications of this unfortunate Supreme Court decision. She was adamant that the administration was going to be taking all the steps it could to get the standards in the original Roe decision to be written into federal law and to protect those innocent victims who in the meantime would be hurt by the reversal. She is also encouraging states to take action to protect women and their rights to control their own health care decisions. I was honored to be part of the discussion. The public part of the roundtable can be viewed at youtu.be/fdrnGwCcSYs.
Virginia women legislators provided pointed testimony that their own daughters would have fewer rights than they did in growing up. At a time when women are achieving such incredible success in the business and political worlds this setback was unwarranted. A majority of members of the Democratic caucus in the House of Delegates are women. Virginia is the first state in the South to be a safe haven for abortion. That came about when Democrats controlled the legislature and the governorship. It has not always been so.
In the half century since the Roe v Wade decision, the Republicans in the state put into place a number of measures designed to make it more difficult for a woman to get an abortion since they could not prohibit it outright. There was the requirement for an ultrasound examination that medical doctors testified was unnecessary, but the requirement was passed anyway along with waiting periods and counseling requirements. Already 15 states have passed laws to ban abortions, and the governor in Virginia has indicated support for a ban after 15 weeks without exceptions for rape, incest, or health of the mother.
In the years I have been in the legislature I have heard incredibly moving testimony as to why abortion as an option must be left in place. Real stories of rape and incest told by the victims, fetal abnormalities, and health threats to women are realities as well as the myriad of circumstances that women face in making decisions about their reproductive health—all of this makes it clear that the government must not make the decisions for them. Support and vote for candidates for office that will keep Virginia the safe haven that it is for women and their reproductive health decisions.
Ken Plum is a member of the Virginia House of Delegates.