Decision 2024

Abortion rights advocate who was raped as child joins first lady's campaign in Pennsylvania

It's part of a 2024 election push around the anniversary of the fall of Roe v. Wade and the constitutional protections for abortion in that the landmark Supreme Court case. 

This combination photo shows first lady Jill Biden in Washington, Nov. 13, 2023, left, and Hadley Duvall in Versailles, Ky.
AP Photo

A 22-year-old woman who became an abortion rights advocate after she was raped by her stepfather as a child will campaign with first lady Jill Biden in Pennsylvania this weekend as part of a 2024 election push around the anniversary of the fall of Roe v. Wade.

Hadley Duvall of Owensboro, Kentucky, first told her story publicly last fall in a campaign ad for the governor's race in her home state, discussing the consequences of abortion restrictions, particularly those without exceptions for rape or incest.

In the ad supporting Democratic Gov. Andy Beshear, Duvall spoke of how she was raped by her stepfather at age 12, became pregnant and miscarried. Her stepfather was convicted of rape and is in prison.

In the ad, Duvall called out the anti-abortion Republican candidate by name and said that “anyone who believes there should be no exceptions for rape and incest could never understand what it’s like to stand in my shoes.”

Beshear won reelection, and Democrats have said Duvall's ad was a strong motivator, particularly for rural, male voters who had previously voted for Republican Donald Trump for president.

Now, Duvall is turning her attention to the White House election.

She plans to appear with first lady Jill Biden at a Pittsburgh rally on Sunday that is part of President Joe Biden's push to motivate voters on abortion rights, and Duvall will continue to campaign for the Democratic incumbent. Jill Biden will also hold an event in Lancaster, Pennsylvania, on Sunday.

The Supreme Court decided on June 24, 2022 to overturn abortion rights that had been in place since 1973. Since then, roughly half the states have some sort of ban in place, and 10 states have no exceptions for rape or incest. The consequences of these bans go far beyond restricting access for those who wish to end unwanted pregnancies.

“Survivors like me have our childhood taken away from us, and it’s something we are healing from every single day. At the very least, we deserve to have our own choices," Duvall said in a statement to The Associated Press. "But, because of Donald Trump, right now there are abortion bans across the country with no exceptions for rape or incest. I feel like I owe it to myself and to a lot of little girls to speak up. They can’t speak up and I can -- and our lives and futures are at stake in this election.”

Trump, the presumptive Republican nominee, has repeatedly taken credit for the overturning of a federally guaranteed right to abortion. He nominated three of the Supreme Court justices who voted to overturn Roe v. Wade. But he has publicly resisted supporting a national abortion ban.

The Pennsylvania events are part of a larger campaign push around the anniversary of the decision in Dobbs v. Jackson Women's Health Organization. That effort kicked off this week with events by Vice President Kamala Harris.

The campaign is holding more than 35 events across the country, including in the swing states of Michigan, Wisconsin and Georgia. The events feature women and doctors who have been deeply impacted by the fall of Roe, including Amanda Zurawski and Kaityln Joshua, who have said abortion restrictions put them in medical peril.

The majority of U.S. adults, including those living in states with the strictest limits on abortion, want it to be legal at least through the initial stages of pregnancy, according to a poll from The Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research.

In the two years since Roe's demise, reproductive health in the U.S. has become increasingly more fraught, and Biden and Democrats are seeking to highlight the growing fallout as a reason to reelect the president.

Women who never intended to end their pregnancies have nearly died because they could not get emergency treatment. Miscarriage care has been delayed. Routine reproductive medical care is drying up in states with strict bans. Fertility treatments were temporarily paused in Alabama.

Demonstrators gathered at the Alabama State House on Wednesday, calling on lawmakers to pass a pair of bills protecting in vitro fertilization providers and patients.

Duvall is a senior at Midway University in Midway, Kentucky. She has also spoken publicly about a state bill that would provide narrowly tailored exceptions to the state's abortion law.

The AP does not normally identify sexual assault victims, but Duvall chose to be identified and has spoken out publicly about her experience and its connection to the debate over abortion.

Copyright AP - Associated Press
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