Call for veto of abortion bill
The Jefferson County Democratic Party Executive Committee has voted unanimously to request that Governor Tomblin veto HB-2568, the 20-week abortion ban bill. This bill is clearly and intentionally unconstitutional, will have little or no impact on abortion rates in West Virginia, and will cost our state millions in unnecessary legal fees.
Given every opportunity to modify the legislation to avoid violating multiple Supreme Court decisions, our Legislature willfully refused to do so. When told that the bill would certainly be overturned by the courts, Delegate Lynn Arvon, who had just sworn to uphold the Constitution when taking office 90 days earlier, responded “Frankly, I don’t care” (Parkersburg News and Sentinel, Feb. 12, 2015). And while refusing to include an exception for cases of rape and incest, Delegate Brian Kurcaba insisted that childbirth resulting from rape is “beautiful” (WOWK Charleston, Feb. 7, 2015).
I remember reading a few years ago about a late term abortion involving a 12-year-old girl who had been impregnated by a family member. The child had complained for weeks about stomachaches and nausea, but a doctor failed to diagnose the cause even after four visits. She had been unwilling to tell him what had happened. Stephen Skinner in the House of Delegates and Herb Snyder in the Senate both attempted to amend the bill to allow for an exception in such cases. Both amendments were rejected — with Delegates Jill Upson and Paul Espinosa both refusing to support exceptions for cases of rape and incest.
Even if, after spending millions of dollars in court costs, this bill is upheld, it will have little or no impact on abortion rates in West Virginia. There are only two abortion clinics that remain open in the state (National Abortion Federation, 2015). Both are located in Kanawha County, a more than six-hour drive from the Eastern Panhandle, and where fewer than 10 percent of West Virginia women of childbearing age reside. The abortion rate in our state is less than one half the rate nationwide — which has been declining for decades — and fewer than 1.5 percent of these are performed after 20 weeks. Of this 1.5 percent, many are ordered by a doctor for health reasons, and most of those that are not, are a direct result of the lack of access to medical facilities (Guttmacher Institute, 1987). The rare remaining cases could very well involve rape or incest — where psychological trauma, denial, or immaturity may contribute to the delay.
The cost of litigating this unnecessary intrusion into the private lives of West Virginia’s women will be in the millions. Our Legislature should be spending more time and effort on improving the State’s economy and less time pursuing a national right-wing agenda at the expense of West Virginia taxpayers.
Chair, Jefferson County Democratic Party Executive Committee