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Women rally in Roanoke for reproductive rights

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From left, Brittany Brizendine, Summer Ward, Sara Sprague, Ivonne Wallace Fuentes, Robin Martin, Allison Kroboth, Barbara Andes and Katie Dralle helped organize a Roanoke rally for reproductive rights on Saturday.

Women rallied for reproductive rights along Franklin Road in Roanoke on Saturday, in solidarity with similar demonstrations nationwide.

About 150 people wielded signs favoring women’s reproductive rights, demonstrating on the sidewalk along grassy River’s Edge South in view of passing traffic between 10 a.m. to 1 p.m, according to organizers.

People of all varieties — not just women — came together for the cause not only in Roanoke, but across the nation, said one organizer, Ivonne Wallace Fuentes.

“We were one of the 600 events that were happening today,” Wallace Fuentes said as the rally concluded. “We organized to defend our reproductive rights that are under attack, specifically by laws like the one that was passed in Texas.”

Legislators in Texas this summer passed a restrictive abortion law considered by some to be unconstitutional. With the U.S. Supreme Court beginning a new term on Monday, Wallace Fuentes said there is potential for women’s reproductive rights granted under the Roe v. Wade decision in 1973 to be overturned.

“As I was walking around, I talked with some people who remember life before Roe, and I talked to some young people who never thought this would happen to them,” Wallace Fuentes said. “Now, suddenly, it’s a reality.”

A voter registration booth was set up at the event, along with information on reproductive healthcare. The rally was broadcast on Facebook via the Women’s March on Roanoke page, organized by Roanoke Indivisible and Blue Ridge Resistance Alliance of Virginia.

“People sometimes say Southwest Virginia is infinitely more conservative than you think,” Wallace Fuentes said. “But when we had people out there on the side of the street with signs, the vast majority of cars who reacted were reacting positively.”

One passing motorist even stopped and donated a bunch of fast food they had purchased to feed the protesters, Wallace Fuentes said.

“We were really excited by the number of people who came out and the energy at the rally,” she said. “Everybody was excited to vote, because in Virginia, every year is an election year.”

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Luke Weir covers higher education and state government. He can be reached at (540) 566-8917 or luke.weir@roanoke.com

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