Amid the relentless attacks on abortion, the Freedom From Religion Foundation is cheering on legislators who are standing up for reproductive health in the Mountain State.
Democratic lawmakers in West Virginia have recently introduced House Bill 4382, which would repeal all abortion restrictions statewide. That means the bill would remove the mandatory 24-hour waiting period and counseling for abortion patients, a 20-week abortion ban, barriers to physician intervention, telehealth ban and criminal penalties for abortion.
The bill’s co-sponsor, Del. Danielle Walker, the only Black woman in the West Virginia Legislature, explained that abortion restrictions are racist and encouraged lawmakers to “sit in that uncomfortable moment.” Walker, a mother who previously had an abortion, elucidated that banning abortion “affects people of color tremendously. It affects our neighbors in rural communities. It affects low-income wage-earning West Virginians, and it upsets me to my core.”
Katie Quinonez, executive director of the Women’s Health Center of West Virginia, the only abortion clinic in the state, applauded this historic move: “This is the first time such a momentous bill has been introduced in West Virginia, a bill that removes politicians from the exam room. … It affirms a pregnant person’s bodily autonomy and recognizes abortion as a normal, common, safe and necessary part of reproductive health care, and that is worth celebrating.”
While this is an important move for reproductive rights, the bill faces steep opposition from anti-abortion groups. A local chapter of the West Virginians for Life recently raised almost $200,000 in just a few months to purchase a vacant lot in Charleston next to the Women’s Health Center. On its website, the group describes this as “God’s Battlefield” and claims that “God has called us to SPEAK LIFE to the abortion business’ patients, employees, and volunteers.” This is anti-abortion speak for harassing patients and clinic workers. Indeed, the chapter has already adorned the vacant lot with crosses and is continuing to solicit money to maintain the lot.
“Women in our nation face a national crisis due to religious interference with reproductive rights,” says Annie Laurie Gaylor, FFRF co-president. “The vital right that Roe v. Wade protects — ‘to be free from unwarranted governmental intrusion into matters so fundamentally affecting a person as the decision whether to bear or beget a child’ — is imperiled by the current Supreme Court. State legislatures must move fast to secure the right to abortion.”
FFRF calls on chapter members in West Virginia to contact their legislators and ask them to support HB 4382, as well as the Women’s Health Protection Act (which would codify abortion rights throughout the country).
Lawmakers need all the encouragement they can get to defend reproductive rights.
The Freedom From Religion Foundation is a national nonprofit organization with more than 35,000 members across the country and members in every state, including West Virginia. FFRF’s purposes are to protect the constitutional principle of separation between church and state, and to educate the public on matters relating to nontheism.