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Preparing for a fight: Kentuckians react to the overturn of Roe v. Wade

pike rally
Stan Ingold
A sign held up at the reproductive rights rally in Pikeville

Last week’s decision by the Supreme Court that overturned Roe v. Wade sparked reactions across the Commonwealth. The WEKU news team spread out across the state for coverage of how Kentuckians reacted to news of the historic ruling over the weekend.

“As of this morning, except where the health of the mother is at risk, abortion is no longer lawful in the Commonwealth.”

Those are the words of Kentucky’s Attorney General Daniel Cameron. He celebrated the Court’s decision on Friday that overturned Roe v. Wade. Cameron said while they have the initial victory, there is still more work to be done.

Stu Johnson
Kentucky Attorney General Daniel Cameron-reacting to the U.S. Supreme Court ruling on abortion

“We must continue to advance and advocate for legislation that stands up for babies that cannot stand up for themselves. We must commit to defending and implementing those laws. I for one will do my part in this role as Attorney General,” Cameron said.

He was not alone in celebrating the decision. Kentucky Right to Life Executive Director Addia Wuchner said she was in a national Right to Life meeting when the doors were abruptly flung open, and an announcement was made about the Court ruling.

“There was a moment of, just a second of stunned silence. And then, it was rejoicing and tears. And the shout was, “Roe’s overturned,” Wuchner exclaimed.

That was not the sentiment everywhere in Kentucky. That same evening, crowds met in front of the Lexington courthouse to rally in support of abortion rights.

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Corinne Boyer
Abortion rights supporters in Lexington on June 24, 2022.

The gathering was hosted by Planned Parenthood Advocates Alliance. Elected officials, candidates and a Rabbi gathered to speak. David Kloiber, a Lexington mayoral candidate, said if elected in November he would advise the police and judiciary to look another way.

“Not to go after and prosecute these kinds of crime. When there’s so much violence in this city, when there are so many other things that are out there that can protect our citizens more, we don't need to be going after people who are victims in all of this,” said the candidate.

Angela Evans is the presumptive Fayette County Attorney elect. She said emotions are high right now.

“A lot of people are hurting; a lot of people are frustrated and mad and it was important to be here to show my support and to express my own frustration,” Evans said.

The weather kept the crowd small in Richmond on Saturday as they gathered outside the county courthouse.

Hannah Bingham is a high school teacher in Madison County. She has lived in central Kentucky for eight years but is originally from Chicago. Illinois is the only border state where abortion protections are still in place. Bingham said she’s grateful she has connections there and could make the trip north if she needed to. She said not having that must be very scary.

“It is not an easy trip as far as like financially, we’re talking about gas prices. Somebody who suddenly needs to have this procedure, it’s not really an easy thing to throw together and find somewhere to stay and know where you’re going and know who you’re going to and all of that kind of thing,” said Bingham.

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Samantha Morrill
Richmond rally

Michelle Gore was at the rally and says she was in high school when Roe V. Wade passed. She said she attended the gathering for the younger generations.

“I have two daughters and two granddaughters and they’re never going to know what I have known for all my reproductive years and so, I’m here for them.” Gore explained, “And just that it’s not right and we have to say something. We have to do something.”

Gore said she hopes the Richmond community will see that there are people in the central Kentucky county willing to fight for women’s rights.

The weather was also a factor on Sunday in Pikeville. A reproductive rights rally was scheduled to take place in the courthouse square and was pushed indoors due to threats of severe storms. Over two hundred people crowded a room in the Pikeville courthouse. The tight quarters and lack of air conditioning did not keep speakers and attendees from hearing each other out for over an hour. Janie Beverly lives in Floyd County. She said now is not the time for silence.

“I cannot sit by and be silent, I cannot sit by and do nothing. I had a conviction in my soul that says we have got to stand up, we’ve got to do what is right and where this is headed is not right,” Beverly said.

Pikeville Rally
Stan Ingold
Crowd reacts during a reproductive rights rally in Pikeville

Few people were silent in that courtroom gathering. One speaker broke out in song before one of the most anticipated speakers got up to the podium.

That speaker was Democratic Senate candidate Charles Booker.

“I love you; I need you to know that because I know how hard it is to be here right now,” Booker sympathized.

“You should not have to be here right now; you should not have to be arguing and fighting for your humanity. You should not have to declare that your life, your agency, your humanity, your identity matters. You shouldn’t have to do that,” he said.

After the event, Booker said that eastern Kentucky was already hurting for access to healthcare.

“We’ve been struggling just as a commonwealth, but especially in Appalachia to get quality healthcare for a long time. Now this rollback of even more rights and protections is really going to be a devastating blow to a lot of families who are needing help, who are needing investment and needing care,” explained Booker.

Booker in Pikeville
Stan Ingold
Democratic Senate candidate Charles Booker addressing the crowd at the reproductive rights rally in Pikeville

Demonstrators this weekend talked about Kentuckians’ will to fight. That fight is already underway. The American Civil Liberties Union of Kentucky has filed a state court challenge trying to block the abortion ban in the Commonwealth.

This story was made possible with help from the following members of the WEKU news team: Stu Johnson reported from Frankfort, Corinne Boyer reported from Lexington, Samantha Morrill reported from Richmond and Stan Ingold reported from Pikeville.

Stan Ingold is WEKU's News Director. He has worked in public broadcasting for 18 years, starting at Morehead State Public Radio before spending the past 10 years at Alabama Public Radio. Stan has been honored with numerous journalism awards for his public radio reporting.
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