Measure will now head to the House Judiciary Committee
CHARLESTON — The House of Delegates Health and Human Resources Committee today passed House Bill 4004, a bill banning abortion starting at 15 weeks of pregnancy. The bill is similar to the abortion ban passed by the state of Mississippi and brought to the U.S. Supreme Court last year in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health as a direct challenge to Roe v. Wade.
If the U.S. Supreme Court overturns or weakens the federal rights established under Roe v. Wade, the legality of abortion will be up to each state. Twenty-six states are expected to swiftly ban or restrict access to abortion if Roe v. Wade is overturned, including West Virginia.
“State lawmakers are trying to interfere with personal medical decisions, block access to essential health care, and force people to give birth against their will," said Alisa Clements, Director of Public Affairs for Planned Parenthood South Atlantic. “Politicians have no place interfering in anyone’s pregnancy decisions. State lawmakers should instead prioritize policies that help people and communities thrive — not restrict people’s personal freedoms and take away their health care.”
Many barriers can stand in the way of someone getting an abortion once they have made their decision, from not being able to afford it to travel distance to a clinic. Restrictions in some states have forced many clinics to shut down, so it can sometimes be weeks until someone can get an appointment. There is only one abortion clinic in West Virginia, forcing people to travel long distances across or out of the state.
“These bills are about banning abortion and making abortion as hard as possible for West Virginians to access, plain and simple,” said Katie Quinonez, Executive Director of Women’s Health Center of West Virginia, the state’s only abortion provider. “When someone has made the decision to have an abortion, they should be able to get one as soon as they decide without facing restrictions that force them to delay care, get on a plane to another state, or carry a pregnancy against their will.”
“As an abortion patient, mother, and elected official, it amazes me that my freedom to make conscious decisions about my body and my family will be at the mercy of an overreaching government," said Delegate Danielle Walker, a member of the House Health Committee who voted “No” on both bills. “Abortion stigma and bans on health care harm marginalized communities — communities where folks already struggle with food deserts, lack of affordable childcare, and low wages that are not enough to make ends meet. My reproductive healthcare is my business and responsibility, and my voice should matter in the decision to become a parent.”
"This is the day that forced birth extremists in West Virginia have been waiting on for years now," said Joseph Cohen, Executive Director of the American Civil Liberties Union of West Virginia. “These bills, if they become law, will fall hardest on the poor and working class. If these lawmakers’ loved ones need an abortion, you can bet they will have the resources to go out of state to seek the care they need. We will not stand by while politicians take away people’s rights to their own bodies."
“There are too many in the legislature who are obsessed with abortion,” said Margaret Chapman-Pomponio, chief executive officer of WV FREE. “Their priorities are out of step with what West Virginians want and need. They’re trying to divide us and drag us backwards. We can’t let them. If elected leaders want to engage in the business of pregnancy, they should focus on truly improving maternity care, and increasing access to birth control. WV FREE will share a proactive agenda that would help carry our state forward and we are hopeful to get bipartisan support for it.”
The committee also advanced House Bill 4005 which would ban the sale of fetal tissue. It is already illegal to sell fetal tissue, and medical providers handle fetal tissue in accordance with state law. H.B. 4005 also moves to the House Judiciary Committee.