CHARLESTON, W.Va. (WBOY) – The West Virginia House and Senate have passed a bill that bans most abortions in the state, but not all legislators supported the bill.
Back in August, both the House and Senate had passed bills on abortion but had not agreed on one to send to the Governor to sign into law. This week, final changes were made before HB 302 was agreed upon on Tuesday.
After the bill was passed in the Senate on Tuesday, a group of Senate Democrats held a press conference to voice their thoughts. Here is why Democrats in the West Virginia Legislature opposed the most recent version of the bill.
Nearly impossible “exceptions”
Sen. Richard Lindsey (D – District 08) said that despite the bill being called “a bill with exceptions,” he does not view it that way. The bill makes exceptions for fetal anomalies, medical emergencies, non-viable fetuses and rape and incest, but certain criteria must be met for these exceptions: Abortions must be performed in a hospital within eight weeks for adults and 14 weeks for minors.
“According to the language of the bill, there is an exception, an allowance for an abortion procedure if the individual has been raped, if they’re a minor…if an abortion can take place within 14 weeks of the incident, and if they’re an adult, within 8 weeks.”
According to Lindsey, even in those cases, doctors would require medical reports of the sexual assault from law enforcement prior to the procedure, which are nearly impossible to get within 14 weeks.
“I’ve spoken to the prosecutors in my district,” said Lindsey, “and that doesn’t happen.” Those reports are not released to the public until there has been a prosecution, said Lindsey, “and eight weeks ain’t enough for an adult! Fourteen weeks isn’t enough for a child.”
Lindsey also pointed out that 65% of rapes go unreported, 65% of rape victims are children, and 70% occur in the home. This means that 65% of rape victims—who are mostly children—would be ineligible for an abortion. “You don’t have to walk the world for 45 years like I have to understand that there are reasons why these horrific circumstances aren’t reported to the authorities.”
Not their choice
Sen. Stephen Baldwin (D – District 10, Minority leader) said that the government shouldn’t be making decisions about abortion in the first place.
“We just shouldn’t be making these decisions. You know, I have personal beliefs about this; I have religious beliefs about this, but we as politicians should not be making these personal, intimate, private, health decisions for people when we don’t have any clue what the particular medical circumstances are in the individual case. ”
Negative effect on OBGYN workforce
Dr. Ron Stollings (D – Boone) said that the bill is really going to affect the medical workforce. Places to have babies delivered are already slim in West Virginia, and Dr. Stallings is concerned that the bill will only intensify those issues and that new mothers and families will lose quality of care.
“My concern is more about, not the person who wants to have the abortion—an elective abortion—but my concern is the family, the new family, that wants to have a child and they want good prenatal care, they want good delivery services on the day the baby comes, and they want good postnatal care.”
Stollings said that the bill could deter doctors from wanting to work in West Virginia, so families will have even fewer options for care. “
People don’t want to practice in a state where they are constantly questioned, looking over their shoulder, wondering if this is a bad enough emergency that they should go ahead and do the procedure.”
He went on to say “I think it’s a scary time for the practice of OBGYN.”
Stollings said that over 34% of West Virginia gynecologists are over 65, and he is concerned that now, new doctors will not want to refill those positions as specialists retire.
Makes WV undesirable to young people
Sen. Bob Beech (D – District 13) said that the ban “does not encourage folks to come to West Virginia”—particularly young people. Funding for a major plant development in Ravenswood that would create tons of jobs also passed during Tuesday’s special session, but Beech pointed out that the passage which was meant to be part of “putting notions of a backward state to rest”, was overshadowed by HB 302. “It is in fact, putting up barriers, and we are still perpetuating that notion that we are a backwards state.”
The group of speakers as a whole felt that the new version of the bill was rushed and that experts were not brought to the session prior to the new version’s passage.
The full press conference from West Virginia’s Senate Democrats can be watched on YouTube at this link.