The right of West Virginians to have bodily autonomy over themselves, to have say over their own reproductive rights, is in deep jeopardy, as it is all over the country. In June, the US Supreme Court is expected to issue a ruling that will gut Roe V Wade. In WV, our battle is now.
Saturday at the Capitol, West Virginians rallied in defense of abortion rights and to celebrate the 49th anniversary of Roe v. Wade. “We live in one of the poorest and sickest states in the country, and instead of giving mountaineers what we truly need, legislators are spending our time and our tax dollars restricting access to basic health care,” said Kaylen Barker, communications director at the Women’s Health Center of West Virginia.
House Bill 4004 would ban abortion after 15 weeks of pregnancy. This is well before many even know if they are pregnant. It gives no thought to whether or not the event that led to the pregnancy was voluntary. It gives no thought to the potential for life threatening medical issues that may arise.
This ban will overwhelmingly harm people with low incomes and people in rural areas, who already face immense barriers to health care. And, in a state with over 300,000 living in poverty, the ability for anyone to make the drive into Charleston to the one abortion clinic can be a herculean effort. It assumes knowledge of the facility, a phone to call and schedule the appointment, money for gas or access to transportation, health coverage or the ability to afford the procedure, and transportation home.
It is essentially the same harmful ban that the state of Mississippi passed and brought to the U.S. Supreme Court last year in an effort to overturn Roe v. Wade.
House Bill 4005 would ban the sale of fetal tissue, which is already illegal. Area medical providers already handle fetal tissue in accordance with state law, just as there are laws that regulate medical tissue for other health care procedures. State lawmakers have clearly introduced this bill simply to spread misinformation and perpetuate abortion stigma, which would make it harder for clinics like the Women’s Health Center of West Virginia to operate.
My sister-in-law almost died while carrying her first child. They saved her life, but the child was lost. She is not alone. According to the CDC, 8% of all pregnancies involve harmful complications. According to the Mayo Clinic, nearly 20% of pregnancies end in miscarriage, and the miscarriage itself can cause deadly hemoraging.
Pregnancy is a complicated health care issue, fraught with serious challenges to both the carrying parent and the child. Thus, legally assuming all pregnancies will go full-term past 15 weeks without serious issues is naive and will put lives in jeopardy.
Individuals and their doctors need to be free to be able to make the hard choices concerning pregnancy, not politicians.