So when dozens of people spoke against the bill in the West Virginia House of Delegates, Addison Gardner was among the speakers who each had 45 seconds to make their case to lawmakers.
“My education is very important to me and I plan to do great things in life,” she said, noting that she played college volleyball and ran track at Buffalo Middle School in Kenova, W. She then posed a series of questions to the much older lawmakers regarding the lack of protections in Bill 302: “If a man decides that I am an object and does unspeakable and tragic things to me, am I , a child, supposed to give birth and bear another child? Should I subject my body to the physical trauma of pregnancy? Am I to suffer the mental implications, a child who had no say in what was done with my body?
She added: “Some here say they are pro-life. And my life? Doesn’t my life matter to you?
Despite impassioned pleas from Gardner and other abortion rights supporters inside and outside the chamber, the House overwhelmingly passed the bill by a vote of 69 to 23.
Hours after Gardner’s speech, the House narrowly passed an amendment to the bill allowing abortions in cases of rape or incest. But the exception in the amendment, which was adopted 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 narrower than one proposed by Democrats regarding exceptions to abortion for rape or incest, which was firmly defeated in the House.
The bill passed the Senate on Thursday and could pass as early as the end of the week.
West Virginia is among the states that do not have “trigger bans” that would ban abortion within 30 days of deerit is to be hit. Instead, the state has a pre-deer ban on abortion dating from the 1800s which – in the absence of deer – would come back into force. The Republican-led state never repealed its pre-deer the abortion ban and voters approved a constitutional amendment specifying that West Virginia does not have the right to abortion.
Abortion is now prohibited in these states. See where the laws have changed.
A judge’s ruling last week blocked enforcement of the 150-year-old abortion ban and allowed proceedings to resume in the state for the time being. Kanawha County Circuit Judge Tera L. Salango granted the Women’s Health Center of West Virginia, the state’s only abortion clinic, a preliminary injunction, saying its patients, “especially those who are impregnated as a result of rape or incest, suffer irreparable harm,” according to the Associated Press. The decision was decried by Attorney General Patrick Morrisey (right) as “a dark day for Virginia- Western”.
On Monday, Justice issued a proclamation calling for a special session of the legislature “to clarify and modernize the abortion laws that currently exist under the West Virginia Code.” The governor’s office said in a Press release that this week’s special session would also “ensure a consistent and comprehensive framework governing abortion and ancillary family services and support for pregnant women in order to provide the citizens of this state with greater certainty in the application of these laws.”
“From the moment the Supreme Court announced its decision in Dobbs, I said I would not hesitate to call a special session once 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 said many times, I am a very proud defender of life and believe that every human life is a miracle worth protecting.”
At Wednesday’s public hearing, more than 90 people, including medical professionals, clergy and abortion rights activists, raised concerns about the restrictive bill. Many of them described it as “disgusting”, “delusional” and “inhuman”. Katie Quiñonez, executive director of the Women’s Health Center of West Virginia, was escorted out after going over 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 said. “It’s a matter of control.”
Others, like Ash Orr, a transgender activist whose pronouns are they/he, spoke specifically about the experience of rape. Orr said she was raped at ages 9 and 10.
“I want you to explain to me why it would have been okay for me as a child to bear my rapist’s child,” they told lawmakers. “Explain it to me like I’m one of the kids you’re all about to traumatize.”
When Gardner took the pulpit on Wednesday, she found support from Rita Ray, 80, who had an abortion in 1959, before the procedure was legalized by deer. A photo by Kyle Vass, a reporter for the American Civil Liberties Union of West Virginia, shows Ray smiling as Gardner pleads with lawmakers.
Video of the vote shows that when the House passed the bill, protesters outside the chamber were chanting profanities at lawmakers. Even though Democrats joined Republicans in voting for the rape and incest amendment, some lawmakers pointed out that the exception was too narrow.
“Guys, I’m fighting this amendment, big time,” said Democratic Congresswoman Kayla Young, who ended up voting for the amendment, according to West Virginia Metro News. “I’d rather have something than nothing. Honestly, I want to protect people. I fight. It is all I have.
Before the Senate begins its hearing on the bill on Thursday, Sen. Mike Azinger (R) said said in an opening prayer that he was grateful that he and his colleagues were not aborted.
“We’re just thankful for that, Lord,” he said.