West Virginia House passes bill banning abortion after 15 weeks

 West Virginia House passes bill banning abortion after 15 weeks

There is a sweeping movement against abortion in various states across the nation, and West Virginia is one of those states. The fight to overturn Roe v. Wade has been a steadfast effort since the Supreme Court upheld the right to abortion in 1973. The first March for Life rally against abortion occurred on the lawn of the National Mall in 1974, with consistent and unwavering opposition ever since. On February 15th, West Virginia’s House of Representatives passed a bill banning abortions after 15-weeks. The bill is titled HB 4004 and passed with a vote of 81-18. 

West Virginia currently has a law banning abortions after 20 weeks for most cases. HB 4004 has a few exceptions for medical emergencies and severe fetal abnormalities. However, the House struck down a proposed amendment that would make exceptions in cases of rape or incest. The proposed amendment would protect young women who may need more time to decide what to do in these scenarios. Despite the effort to safeguard women’s rights after being victimized by rape and incest, the House deemed the amendment an invalid reason to terminate a pregnancy. The amendment, formally called the Zukoff amendment, failed by a 21-78 vote. 

“As such, it is premature to discuss the implications of the Supreme Court decision on West Virginia…When the Supreme Court’s final opinion is published, we will weigh in more formally and work closely with the legislature to protect life in all stages as much as we legally can under the law.”

Attorney General Patrick Morrisey of West Virginia

What is the difference between the 20-week ban and the 15-week ban?

Most representatives will never understand the realities that many women experience within their state. A 15-week ban on abortion causes fewer abortions and more full-term pregnancies. Young women, poor women, and women of color will be negatively affected by the 15-week abortion ban due to limited access to resources and assistance. 

There are many reasons why women cannot get an abortion by the 15-week point. One of the more common reasons is that the first ultrasound generally occurs around the 20-week mark when problems can be seen. A woman would’ve already missed the cutoff date for an abortion by this time. A second reason is that abortions are in high demand in many locations across the U.S., making it difficult for a patient to schedule the procedure. This difficulty causes a delay in the process, which would put it beyond the 15-week deadline for a legal abortion. A third reason is the cost of the procedure and the expenses associated with getting it, such as gas, lodging, food, etc.

The reality is that women getting abortions after 15 weeks are among the most vulnerable people in America. Many states recognize women’s abortion rights by expanding abortion services to residents in their state and women traveling to the state for an abortion. These states are working to broaden access to economic relief for travelers. Travel expenses and other related costs are a burden for most women who are not receiving income from their job.

The Supreme Court’s decision

The state legislators of West Virginia decided to pause HB 4004 while the U.S. Supreme Court determines if abortion is unconstitutional. Supreme Court Justice Samuel Alito received much criticism from women’s rights groups and their allies when a copy of the draft decision was leaked to Politico. Justice Alito and many other conservative justices are expected to overturn Roe v. Wade. This decision will give states complete discretion to determine the legality of abortion.

State leaders in West Virginia anxiously await the Supreme Court’s decision and hint at a complete ban on abortions in the state. The state’s attorney general, Pattrick Morrisey, weighed in on his plans, saying, “As such, it is premature to discuss the implications of the Supreme Court decision on West Virginia…When the Supreme Court’s final opinion is published, we will weigh in more formally and work closely with the legislature to protect life in all stages as much as we legally can under the law.”

Despite the grim outlook for Roe v. Wade, women’s rights activists across the nation continue to fight for abortion rights. Margaret Chapman Pomponio is the executive director of West Virginia Free, an organization that protects reproductive rights. Pomponio is diligently raising awareness in the state and preparing to oppose further the state legislature’s attempt to restrict women’s reproductive rights.

“We know that West Virginians are compassionate people, we know they don’t like government intrusion into their private healthcare decisions…It’s time for the reasonable legislators to get together and stop this from happening. And they can. And I firmly think that most of them believe this is too far, it’s radical in nature, and it’s dangerous.”

Margaret Chapman Pomponio, executive director of West Virginia Free
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