Lt Gov. candidate Hala Ayala
Lt gov. candidate Del. Hala Ayala (Photo by Win McNamee/Getty Images)

The leader of Planned Parenthood in Virginia and the Democratic candidate for lieutenant governor explain how the Texas abortion ban has real implications in Virginia’s Nov. 2 election.

By Jamie Lockhart and Hala Ayala

Like many reproductive rights advocates, we’ve spent the fall reeling from the news out of Texas, where the constitutional right to abortion has been made virtually illegal. The heart-wrenching stories of patients in distress being turned away from care have rightfully placed reproductive rights at the forefront of Virginia’s gubernatorial and down-ballot elections. 

The Supreme Court, now with three Trump-appointed justices, is hearing the Biden Administration’s challenge to Texas’s near-total abortion ban, S.B. 8. We fear that the conservative majority could decide to let the law stand — leaving millions of people permanently without access to safe, legal abortion. While today it’s Texans losing access to essential health care, it could be Virginians next.

As lifelong supporters of abortion access, we have never been more devastated — or more outraged. Last week, it was announced that the Supreme Court would hear arguments over S.B. 8 today, Nov. 1 — one day before Virginia’s Election Day. While we look forward to patients and providers having their day in court, we urgently call on Virginians to turn out and vote for candidates who will fight to protect reproductive rights. 

By allowing the devastating law in Texas to remain in effect since September 1st, the Supreme Court has already allowed cruelty and injustice to forever alter the lives of so many. Planned Parenthood health centers have seen patients as young as 12 years old, patients traveling overnight and alone because they don’t want their loved ones to be sued, patients who already have children and can’t afford to grow their families, and patients who are the victims of domestic abuse. 

2021 has already been the worst on record for abortion restrictions –– which disproportionately harm people of color and people with low incomes. And despite the fact that 79% of Virginians support this fundamental right to choose, our reproductive rights are still at risk. Our Commonwealth’s state Senate sits at a 20-20 tie on the issue of abortion, and the state lacks constitutional protections for abortion. It was only last year that our first pro reproductive rights legislature repealed medically unnecessary restrictions with a tie-breaking vote cast by our Democratic lieutenant governor. Virginia is also bordered by three states — Kentucky, Tennessee, and West Virginia — where abortion access is at risk of being lost if the Supreme Court overturns Roe v. Wade. In December, the Court is hearing a case, Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization, that directly challenges that precedent. 

Reproductive health, rights, and justice advocates have always known that the constitutional right to abortion — and the existence of courts that protect it — isn’t enough. Now, we are asking you to join us in calling on candidates to stand up for abortion access. This election cycle, Planned Parenthood Advocates of Virginia has endorsed 75 House of Delegates candidates who support reproductive freedom alongside three statewide candidates who have all proven themselves as a “brick wall” for reproductive rights. 

It’s an easy choice for Virginians who care about their rights. The opposing ticket features gubernatorial candidate Glenn Youngkin — a Trump-endorsed newcomer who refuses to tell voters what he actually believes about abortion and pledged to defund Planned Parenthood — and Winsome Sears, who recently told right-wing outlet Newsmax that she’d support a Texas-style, vigilante justice-enforced six-week abortion ban in Virginia, and co-patroned a bill in the House of Delegates to allow a pharmacist to deny someone contraceptives based on their personal beliefs. 

As SCOTUS prepares to decide the fates of so many, Virginians must get comfortable openly discussing the right to abortion with friends and family members. We must demand clear answers from candidates at all levels on whether they’ll support measures to protect the right to abortion in Virginia regardless of what actions the Supreme Court takes. We deserve leaders who’ll support access to affordable, judgement-free health care like that provided by Planned Parenthood affiliates throughout the commonwealth — because, sadly, the United States Supreme Court can’t be counted on to save us. 

Jamie Lockhart is the executive director of Planned Parenthood Advocates of Virginia. 

Hala Ayala is the Democratic nominee for Lieutenant Governor of Virginia.