Virginia becomes abortion haven for out-of-state women

Jeremy M. Lazarus | 1/25/2024, 6 p.m.
It is no longer unusual for a pregnant Alabama woman with two kids to be parked overnight outside a Virginia …
Mr. Becerra

It is no longer unusual for a pregnant Alabama woman with two kids to be parked overnight outside a Virginia League for Planned Parenthood (VLPP) clinic, waiting for the doors to open.

Jamie Lockhart, executive director of Planned Parenthood Advocates of Virginia, said the protection of abortion rights in this state means that women who live where the procedure is banned are making their way to VLPP facilities in Richmond and Hampton Roads.

An influx of patients from other states has increased the total of abortions that Planned Parenthood is performing yearly in Virginia, according to Paulette McElwaine, VLPP president and CEO.

Prior to June 2022 when the U.S. Supreme Court struck down the national right to abortion enshrined in the 1973 Roe v. Wade decision, Planned Parenthood’s clinics in Richmond and Hampton Roads would perform about 4,000 abortions a year, Ms. McElwaine said. In the past year, the number has surpassed 7,000, she said.

Ms. McElwaine discussed the impact of the Supreme Court decision after meeting with U.S. Secretary of Health and Human Resources Xavier Becerra at the newest VPPL women’s health clinic in Church Hill that quietly opened three years ago to provide services.

Secretary Becerra made Richmond one of his stops to raise awareness of the Biden administration’s commitment to protect reproductive health rights for women, including abortion, as the nation marked the 50th anniversary (Jan. 22, 2023) of the landmark abortion-rights decision.

“We’re going to protect all the rights that folks may have” when it comes to their health, he said at the meeting Jan. 18 at the clinic at 1122 N. 25th St., previously the home of a Black-owned medical office building and pharmacy.

Secretary Becerra also listened to the views of advocates for abortion rights who spoke about the importance of women having a right to choose who fear the loss the of the procedure.

Those who spoke up included Gianna Fioravante, who faced the difficult decision to have an abortion when she became pregnant at 15. Then living in West Virginia, the now 36-year-old Richmond paralegal said her life “would be far different” if she now were the mother of a 20-year-old.

She said she knows other teenagers from her area whose plans for the future were derailed as they became young mothers.

Ms. Fioravante told the secretary the decision to have an abortion is never easy, but must be left to the women whose lives will be impacted.