NORFOLK — About 300 marchers took to the downtown streets Saturday morning to advocate for abortion rights.
The marchers — many voicing concern about new abortion restrictions in Texas — began with a rally outside City Hall, then walked about 1½ miles to the Chrysler Museum of Art.
Natasha Phillips, from Planned Parenthood of Hampton Roads, vowed that abortion rights supporters won’t concede ground to those who want to outlaw the practice.
“This is not a fantasy future situation,” Phillips said of the prospect of new abortion restrictions coming.
“It was the law of the land in this country not very long ago... and we will not go back quietly!” Phillips said to cheers outside City Hall as the rally began. “I don’t know what people get out of making women carry babies against their will. I don’t find that to be a moral high ground at all.”
Called the “Norfolk Reproductive Rights March,” the event was sponsored by the Women’s March movement, with similar events in Washington and other cities Saturday.
Marchers — all ages, genders and races, with some children included — shouted slogans en route to the museum.
Some carried placards in favor of Roe v. Wade, the landmark U.S. Supreme Court decision barring states from banning abortion — which some fear could be reversed by a new high court.
Marchers also vowed to elect Terry McAuliffe, a Democrat candidate for governor and abortion rights supporter, in the November election.
“This is all coming off of what’s happening in Texas,” said marcher Elizabeth Aucamp, 53, of Norfolk, saying there’s a concern that other states could follow that lead. “I’m pro-everybody’s choice — and if this isn’t for you, I understand that. But there’s an arm of conservatives that are interested in policing our bodies.”
Such “policing,” she contended, goes against the limited government philosophy espoused by many on the right.
The event wasn’t without heated moments.
A younger man in an SUV at a traffic light on East Main Street called out to the marchers as they passed by on the sidewalk.
“You’re advocating genocide,” he said passionately. “I’m not trying to be ugly. But babies are living human beings.”
At City Hall Avenue and Bousch Street, hundreds of marchers stepped into the roadway, blocking traffic to Freemason Street a few blocks down.
Shortly after, a man blocked an SUV trying to drive down Bousch, causing it to turn down a side street. The marcher then yelled to a Norfolk police officer to stop the cars from using Bousch.
“Do your job!” the marcher told the officer.
The officer told a reporter the marchers had a permit for the sidewalk — not the street — but he drove slowly behind the crowd in his police SUV for a couple blocks without further incident.
As the march ended near Chrysler Hall, two construction workers working on a nearby home, Jason Lamonte, 21, and Louis Presbury, 38, asked what the rally was about.
When told it was a rally for abortion rights, they said supported the effort — with Lamonte saying that “accidents happen” and that people shouldn’t be “forced” to go forward with a pregnancy for which they aren’t ready.
Another speaker at the rally, Michelle Wooten-McFarland, of the National Abortion Rights Action League Pro-Choice Virginia, urged a big turnout this November.
“We need y’all to come out,” she said. “It’s urgent. And if anything like the Texas law has proven, is more urgent than ever.”
Peter Dujardin, 757-247-4749, firstname.lastname@example.org