Friday, June 24, a 6-3 decision released by the U.S. Supreme Court overturned the landmark 1973 Roe v. Wade ruling, which safeguarded a person’s right to receive an abortion at the federal level. In the wake of the decision, abortion clinics closed in “trigger states” — states in which partial or full abortion bans were scheduled to go into effect immediately after Roe was overturned — and protests broke out nationwide.
On college campuses across the country, administrators have been wary of commenting on the controversial ruling. The University of Michigan and the University of California system have both publicly criticized the decision and highlighted their commitments to reproductive healthcare access for students. Liberty University, a conservative Christian institution, alternatively praised the ruling for its pro-life stance. The College of William and Mary has yet to publicly comment on the issue. State leaders nationwide have spoken out on the ruling, vowing to either ban abortion or guarantee a pregnant individual’s right to choose.
In Virginia, abortion is still legal and available, up until the end of the second trimester.
After that cutoff, abortions are only permitted in order to preserve the pregnant person’s life or general health, which includes their mental health. Currently, Virginia requires no waiting period or counseling sessions prior to an abortion, though individuals under the age of 18 require parental consent or a judicial bypass. Virginia currently does not require an ultrasound — or for clinics to show an individual an ultrasound — prior to obtaining an abortion.
Abortion access for Williamsburg residents remains limited to neighboring cities:
- In Hampton, the Planned Parenthood health center offers in-person or telehealth abortion pills up to 11 weeks. It does not currently offer other forms of abortion. The Peninsula Medical Center for Women in Newport News offers abortion pills through 8 weeks or an in-clinic abortion procedure through 13 weeks and 6 days. Both are noted to offer LGBTQ+ friendly care.
- A Tidewater Women’s Health Clinic in Norfolk offers abortion pills through 11 weeks and abortion procedures through 15 weeks and 6 days.
- A Capital Women’s Health Clinic in Richmond offers the pill through 10 weeks and 6 days and a procedure through 13 weeks and 6 days.
- Planned Parenthood East End Center in Richmond is another LGBTQ+ friendly clinic that has only abortion pills (in-person or telehealth) through 11 weeks. Planned Parenthood – Hamilton Health Center in Richmond offers the same, plus an in-clinic procedure through 20 weeks and 6 days. Both clinics can serve Spanish speaking patients.
- Richmond Medical Center for Women in Richmond is an LGBTQ+ friendly clinic that can accommodate Spanish speakers. It offers in-clinic abortions through 21 weeks, the longest period in the Williamsburg area.
- Lastly, the Planned Parenthood – Virginia Beach Health Center offers the abortion pill through 11 weeks and an in-clinic procedure through 20 weeks and 6 days.
As an alternative to in-person clinic visits, pregnant individuals can obtain abortion pills through telehealth visits; the pills are mailed to an address and taken at home. Generally, abortion pills are only available from up to 8-11 weeks of pregnancy.
Abortion providers listed above can be expensive, especially since insurance often does not cover abortions except in cases of life endangerment, rape, incest or fetal impairment. Planned Parenthood clinics, which are the largest providers of abortions and other reproductive health services in the US, generally charge between $500-$650 depending on the type of procedure and gestation period. Capital Women’s Health charges between $500-$850, though low-income individuals can receive funding if they qualify. Insurance and financial aid does vary, and may even cover the full cost of an abortion, so experts say it is best to contact a clinic if in need.
There are also several abortion funds operating in Virginia — including Blue Ridge Abortion Fund, Richmond Reproductive Freedom Project and New River Abortion Access Fund — that can provide funding for abortion procedures, transportation, lodging, meals, childcare and more.
On the College’s campus, the Student Health Center provides birth control and contraceptive counseling, pregnancy testing, subsidized emergency contraception and other services. If a pregnancy test is positive, the Student Health Center does not offer abortion services, but rather provides counseling to explore the next steps.
“You will receive counseling and references which address your options (carrying the pregnancy to full term, adoption alternatives, terminating the pregnancy),” the Health Center’s website says. “You need to make sure to give yourself time to explore your feelings and your options.”
While some unwanted pregnancies are the result of consensual relationships, others may not be. The Haven is a confidential resource that offers a space to talk with peers about gender-based or sexual violence. It can also provide access to emergency contraception, crisis response services, connection to off-campus resources and information on legal options. The Haven also has an emergency fund — which is intended for survivors of sexual violence — for unanticipated medical expenses, transportation and other needs.
Despite abortion being legal in Virginia, Republican Governor Glenn Youngkin has expressed his desire to limit abortions after 15 weeks, or about three and a half months. Most individuals become aware of pregnancy between 4 and 7 weeks, however, that number is often higher for people of color, low-income individuals and those with an unintended pregnancy.
“The Supreme Court of the United States has rightfully returned power to the people and their elected representatives in the states,” Youngkin said in a statement. “I’m proud to be a pro-life Governor and plan to take every action I can to protect life. The truth is, Virginians want fewer abortions, not more abortions.”
He later specified his desire to ban abortions to when he believes a fetus can feel pain in the womb, a landmark many conservative lawmakers have placed at 15 weeks. Scientists have debated the existence and significance of fetal pain for years, and the debate is ongoing. Most studies place this threshold much higher than 15 weeks. Furthermore, policymakers and activists have further debated whether it should warrant government intervention in pregnant individuals’ choices about their bodies.
Democratic Virginia lawmakers have also responded to the ruling, reaffirming their commitment to pro-choice legislation.
“I am deeply disturbed that the Supreme Court has overturned Roe v. Wade and Planned Parenthood v. Casey, upsetting decades of precedent protecting the right of women to make fundamental personal decisions about contraception and abortion without unnecessary government interference,” US Senator Tim Kaine (D-VA) wrote in a statement. “That’s why I’ve been engaged in efforts in the Senate to codify the basic framework of Roe v. Wade and related cases into federal law. We’re not going to give up on the fight to protect the right to choose.”
Most of the protections established nearly 50 years ago through Roe had been held up in court multiple times, notably in Planned Parenthood v. Casey (1992). But at the federal level, they have not been codified into law. Furthermore, a number of watershed civil rights cases— including Obergefell v. Hodges (2015), which grants the right to marry for same-sex couples— follow Roe’s logic of a “right to privacy” granted by the Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment. This latest ruling, Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization — the decision that overturned Roe — signals an end to federal abortion protection and allows states to make laws as they see fit.
Information on clinic availability was gathered using abortionfinder.org.
The W&M Student Health Center can be contacted at (757) 221-4386. The Haven can be contacted at (757) 221-2449. Planned Parenthood also has a confidential Sexual Health Counseling and Referral Hotline, which can be reached toll-free at (800) 258-4448.