WOODSTOCK — Noemi Cardoso used to be pro-life. Then she had a baby.
Now 19, the mother of a 3-month-old is marching for women’s reproductive rights.
“Once I was old enough, I realized it’s really none of my business what anybody does,” she said.
“But I think when I really understood the point of pro-choice was when I was pregnant,” she continued. “It’s so life-changing and so many body changes; I don’t think anybody should be forced.”
Cardoso attended the Northern Shenandoah Valley Women’s March on Saturday along with her fiance, Julian Higgs, and daughter, Eliana Higgs.
Leading Saturday’s walk was Jennifer Moore, 22, of Edinburg, who said she organized the peaceful protest in coordination with hundreds of other women’s walks happening that day around the country.
The walks were registered with the national Women’s March Network in anticipation of the Supreme Court starting its new term on Monday, when it will consider, among other cases, a Mississippi law that bans many abortions after 15 weeks and a Texas law banning most abortions after six weeks.
Saturday’s march in Woodstock started at Las Trancas Mexican restaurant.
Moore estimated that about 100 people were there, with a handful of others waiting about 1.3 miles north at the Historic Courthouse. Originally hoping for a larger crowd, she reasoned that the walk was competing with other local events, including the Fall Farm Run Race in Front Royal and Shenandoah Autumnfest at the Shenandoah County Fairgrounds.
“Whoever shows up, we’re happy for the support,” Moore said.
Some brought homemade signs and others picked up boards provided by the National Women’s Political Caucus of Virginia.
After greeting the crowd, asking everyone to wear masks to protect against the COVID-19 pandemic and offering other safety tips, Moore led the group down East Reservoir Road to Main Street. There they stood on the corner with police presence for about 10 minutes holding signs up for passing traffic before beginning the trek downtown.
There are many faces of abortion, retired pastor Karen Caspersen told the crowd in front of the courthouse nearly an hour later.
Abortion isn’t a form of birth control, she said. It’s an agonizing decision made by people who find themselves unable to support a pregnancy or a baby financially, emotionally, mentally, physically, spiritually or ethically.
“No one I know has gone through an abortion easily or thoughtlessly,” she said. “It’s a heartwrenching decision, each and every time.”
Most recently an interim pastor at Prince of Peace Lutheran Church in Basye, she said she’s often asked why she’s pro-choice.
“I believe that God gives us free choice. So who am I to take a choice away from another person?”
Afterward, she explained that taking away women’s rights would take society back to The Dark Ages.
“We have to say we understand and recognize the dilemmas that many women are in, and we have to support that no matter what choice they make,” she said. “If a woman came to me and wanted to have an abortion, I’d drive her to the clinic.”
She would also “hold her hand” and “support her decision.”
Caspersen and her husband have 13 grandchildren, 10 of whom are girls.
“I hope that none of them has to make that decision,” she said, “but I want them to have the choice to be able to make that decision.”