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Shepherdstown Vigil Organized After Overturn Of Roe V. Wade

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Shepherd Snyder
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West Virginia Public Broadcasting
Protestors at the reproductive rights vigil in Shepherdstown, West Virginia the evening after Roe V. Wade was overturned by the U.S. Supreme Court.

Vigils and protests across the state were mobilized by organizations like Planned Parenthood and the American Civil Liberties Union following Friday’s Supreme Court decision that overturned Roe v. Wade.

One such vigil was organized in the Eastern Panhandle’s Shepherdstown. This particular event was organized by Emily Baker, a student at Shepherd University and president of the school’s Students for Reproductive Rights organization.

“Just this morning, I had to put it all together, had to find a place,” Baker said. “Since it was so last minute, I was nervous that nobody was going to show up. But luckily, Planned Parenthood sent me all of the supplies and information that I needed. And I just kind of sent out the troops on social media.”

Shepherdstown is right next to the Maryland border, where the right to an abortion is guaranteed by state law. But in West Virginia, the process is likely to be banned, with a century-old law that would make it a felony being unenforced until now. There is some debate as to whether it can be enforced, but Attorney General Patrick Morrissey has said he will deliver an opinion in the coming days. An amendment to the state’s constitution was also approved in 2018 stating that nothing in the document guarantees the right to abortion.

Concerned locals from the region came to the vigil, all with their own reason for attending. That includes Melanie Kozak, a worker at a local domestic violence and rape crisis center.

“Reproductive coercion is real, people force people to have sex without protection, they get pregnant, they can't leave. It's just another barrier, limiting my clients’ access to leaving an unhealthy, unsafe relationship,” Kozak said.

Others were concerned for more personal reasons, including Katrina Fernandez, who attended the vigil with her five daughters.

“Anything could happen. And whatever happens should be between my daughter, myself, and my family. And this should be our choice,” Fernandez said. “And I don't believe anybody, especially the state, government, or anybody else has the right to tell me or them what we need to do with our bodies.”

Gov. Jim Justice said in a release that he is in favor of the Supreme Court’s decision and that he would declare a special session if clarifying state law is necessary. A larger rally for reproductive rights is planned at the capitol building in Charleston on July 9.

Eastern Panhandle Reporter, ssnyder@wvpublic.org, 304-433-4288

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