So when dozens of people spoke out against the bill in the West Virginia House of Delegates, Addison Gardner was among the speakers given 45 seconds each to argue their case before lawmakers.
“My education is very important to me and I plan to do great things in life,” she said, pointing out that she plays varsity volleyball and does track and field at Buffalo Middle School in Kenova, W.Va. She then posed a series of questions to the much older lawmakers regarding the lack of protection in House Bill 302: “If a man decides that I am an object and does unspeakable and tragic things to me, must I, a child, still be give birth to and carry a child? Do I have to let my body go through the physical trauma of pregnancy? Do I have to bear the mental implications, a child who had nothing to say about what was done to my body?
She added: “Some here say they are pro-life. What about my life? Doesn’t my life matter to you?”
Despite the impassioned advocacy of Gardner and other abortion rights advocates inside and outside the chamber, the West Virginia House overwhelmingly approved the bill by a vote of 69 to 23.
Hours after Gardner spoke, the State House narrowly passed an amendment to the bill to allow abortions in cases of rape or incest. But the exception in amendment, which passed from 46 to 43, is only allowed up to 14 weeks of pregnancy and only if the rape or incest is reported to the police. The amendment passed by the Republican-led legislature was more restrictive than the amendment proposed by the Democrats regarding abortion exceptions for rape or incest, which was defeated in the chamber.
The bill now goes to the state Senate on Thursday and could be passed by the end of the week.
West Virginia is one of the states that don’t have “trigger bans” that ban abortion within 30 days of birth roe is knocked down. Instead, the state has aroe abortion ban dating back to the 1800s that — for lack of roe — would come into force again. The Republican-led state has never lived up to its pre-roe abortion ban, and voters approved a constitutional amendment specifying that West Virginians have no right to an abortion.
Abortion is now banned in these states. See where laws have changed.
A judge’s ruling last week blocked enforcement of the state’s 150-year-old abortion ban and allowed proceedings to resume in the state for the time being. Kanawha County Circuit Court Judge Tera L. Salango granted a preliminary injunction to the Women’s Health Center of West Virginia, the state’s only abortion clinic, saying that “those impregnated as a result of rape or incest suffer irreparable harm” , according to the Associated Press. The ruling was labeled “a dark day for West Virginia” by Attorney General Patrick Morrisey (R).
On Monday, the Justice Department issued a proclamation calling for a special session in the legislature “to clarify and modernize the abortion-related laws that currently exist as part of the West Virginia Code.” The governor’s office said in a press release that this week’s special session will also “provide a coherent, comprehensive framework for abortions and associated family services and support the expectation that mothers provide greater certainty to citizens of this state in the application of such laws. ”
“From the moment the Supreme Court announced their decision in dobbs“I said I would not hesitate to call a special session as soon as I heard from our legislative leaders that they had done their due diligence and were ready to act,” Justice said in a statement. “As I have often said, I am very proud of life and I believe that every human life is a miracle worth protecting.”
During Wednesday’s public hearing, more than 90 people, including medical professionals, clergy and abortion rights activists, spoke about their concerns over the state’s restrictive law. Many of them described the bill as “disgusting”, “insane” and “inhumane”. Katie Quiñonez, executive director of the Women’s Health Center of West Virginia, was escorted after she exceeded her 45-second limit.
“This ban has nothing to do with life. It has nothing to do with health. It has nothing to do with family,” she says. “This is about control.”
Others, such as Ash Orr, a transgender activist whose pronouns are she/he, spoke specifically about the experience of rape. Orr said they were raped at ages 9 and 10.
“I want you to explain to me why it would have been good if I had carried my rapist’s child as a child,” they told lawmakers. “Explain to me like I’m one of the kids you all want to traumatize.”
When Gardner took the lectern on Wednesday, she found support from Rita Ray, 80, who had an abortion in 1959, before the procedure was legalized by roe. A photo of Kyle Vass, a reporter with the American Civil Liberties Union of West Virginia, shows Ray smiling as Gardner makes her plea to lawmakers.
When the chamber passed the bill, the video of the vote shows protesters outside the chamber chanting expletives at lawmakers. While Democrats joined Republicans in voting for the rape and incest amendment, some lawmakers stressed that the exception was too narrow.
“Guys, I’m really struggling with this amendment,” Democratic Rep. Kayla Young, who eventually voted for the amendment, said according to West Virginia MetroNews. “I’d rather have something than nothing. Frankly, I want to protect people. I’m having a hard time. That’s all I have.”
Before the state Senate began its hearing on the bill Thursday, Sen. Mike Azinger (R) said said in an opening prayer that he was grateful that he and his colleagues had not been aborted.
“We’re just thankful for that, Lord,” he said.