Following West Virginia’s ban on abortion with few exceptions Tuesday, strong reaction has been pouring in on both sides of the contentious issue.
West Virginia’s new ban on abortion will take effect as soon as Gov. Jim Justice signs the bill into law – which is expected imminently.
House Bill 302 replaces a 19th century state law and outlaws abortion. The bill
which passed on a vote of 77-17 with 6 absent, includes exceptions for certain severe fetal anomalies, medical emergencies, and non-viable fetuses.
There’s also provision for pregnancies resulting from rape or incest. The abortion must be performed in a hospital within eight weeks for adults and 14 weeks for minors – but only in cases reported to law enforcement.
Reacting to the ban, Margaret Pomponio with West Virginia Free said she doesn’t consider the exceptions as valid.
“We know that two thirds or more of rape victims and survivors do not report to police and for victims of incest it’s even higher,” she said.
Pomponio said they will continue their work to encourage the large-scale mobilization of voters to elect leaders who will fight for women’s rights. She said the ban showcases a deep disparity based on where people live. She said people should not be denied access to health care based on how much money they make, or their zip code.
“I think there’s a reason why there’s a new term exploding around the country, which is ROEvember. Abortion rights are on the ballot everywhere,” Pomponio said.
She added that she believes the Biden administration is filling in a gap that fanatical legislators are creating for people around the country.
Sen. Mark Maynard, R-Wayne, said the bill was a compromise but he believes it was the best that they could do under the circumstances.
“Well H.B. 302 wasn’t as strong as I’d like but I feel it will save some of the unborn,” he said. “Rape and incest is a terrible situation but I feel like sometimes we’re playing God when we say you can kill these babies but you can’t kill these.”
Maynard said he was proud that West Virginia stepped up to take on the challenge of passing the abortion bill.
“I am happy that we got it through and hopefully we can save some babies lives,” Maynard said.
Childhood rape survivor Roni Jones was at the Capitol Monday for a protest outside the governors mansion the night before the legislature’s decision.
“For a state that’s always been known as a blue state we are incredibly red now and extremely conservative, and they’ve brought their religion into our state house,” she said.
Under the new law, any licensed abortion provider in West Virginia who terminates a pregnancy not covered by one of these exceptions could lose their medical license.
Co-Chair of the White House Gender Policy Council Jennifer Klein talked to WVPB Wednesday about the new ban on abortion in West Virginia.
“It’s obviously an extreme restriction on the right to seek an abortion and to get medical services and wildly out of step with what the vast majority of Americans believe they should be able to do which is to have autonomy to make decisions about their own bodies,” she said.
Klein said as much as the ban was anticipated, there are many people who were born after Roe Vs. Wade who she said cannot imagine a world without being able to exercise their right to make decisions about their own bodies.
“As Justice Thomas made clear, this has implications for other rights, to get access to contraception,” Klein said. “It’s out of step, and for young people in particular, I think it is a pretty shocking situation we are finding ourselves in now.”
Margaret Pomponio with West Virginia Free agreed with Klein that the younger generation will be the hardest hit. She said the ban will prompt more young people to leave the state.
“Certainly we’re going to see young people choosing not to return if they are going to school out of state, or work out of state, and had eventually hoped to move back home to be close to family and raise their own families,” she said.
Klein said the Biden administration will continue to fight for women. She said women who find themselves in a desperate situation and need an abortion still have some options. She cited the recent launch of a website by the Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) called reproductiverights.gov. The website provides detailed information and links to access legal services in a person’s home state or in another state.
Klein said states have flexibility with their own funds. She said the Secretary of Health and Human Services and the Administrator for the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid recently issued a letter to governors encouraging them to apply for waivers under Medicaid. The waiver would allow applicable states to use Medicaid to pay for legal abortion services for non citizens. That’s if the state wishes to participate and if a waiver is approved. No federal funds can be used for abortions except for the life of the mother in the case of rape or incest.
However, some states may hit back. Texas recently filed a lawsuit against the Biden administration’s requirement that doctors nationwide provide abortions in emergency situations or risk the loss of their Medicare funding.
For Planned Parenthood South Atlantic Community Organizer, Ixya Vega, the ban is an attempt to exert control over women.
“It’s not about fetuses, it’s not about babies, it’s about control and taking control from people’s body’s. There’s so many restrictions when it comes to people who identify as women and people who can have babies but there’s no added restrictions or support from male counterparts,” she said.
The Women’s Health Center of West Virginia issued their own statement Wednesday saying while the center will no longer be able to offer abortion services, the center will remain open. Communications Director Kaylen Barker said health services for women, including annual exams, birth control, cancer screenings, family planning, gender affirming hormone therapy, pregnancy and parenting support will still be available.