UPDATE 6 p.m. Monday Bill was sent to subcommittee following discussion in the House Judiciary Committee.
CHARLESTON, W.Va. — Those for and against a parental notification bill voiced their concerns during a public hearing Monday morning in the House of Delegates Chamber.
HB 2002 would require parental notification of abortions performed on unemancipated minors. The bill would eliminate a doctor’s waiver, which currently allows a young girl to get an abortion without a parent’s knowledge.
Opponents of the bill on Monday included rape and sexual assault victims. Ciera Pennington, 23, was assaulted as a young girl. She said the bill would take away protections for victims that need it the most.
“It scares me to think that this bill would make it harder for young women who are raped and abused to go and get care that they need,” Pennington said.
Barbara Raftburn can relate to Pennington because her own brother sexually abused her.
“When you have been sexually abused, nothing becomes more important to you than taking over ownership of your own body,” she said. “For these young girls, if they have lived the way I did, that is vitally important to them.”
While holding back tears, Raftburn said she had a rough home life. Not only did her brother take advantage of her, but her mother was also mentally unstable and did not believe her brother’s actions. She said some girls, like herself, do not have parents who are able to support their decisions.
“Not all of us grow up like the Brady Bunch. We don’t all grow up in a loving, stable environment. Sometimes, the parents are not capable of making decisions in the best interest of their own children,” Raftburn said.
Supporters of the bill, like Rhonda Fout, a Morgantown mother, said it’s important for a parent to know about the abortion because a teenage girl is not mature enough to make the decision.
“How could this be that my daughter, or anyone else’s daughter under the age of 18, is not mature enough to take an ibuprofen (at school), but is old enough and mature enough to have an abortion?” Fout said.
The pro-life group, West Virginians For Life, is urging passage of the bill. Wanda Franz, president of the group, said there’s no way to determine if a girl is mature enough to make the decision.
“There is no developmental psychologist that would say that it was possible to determine if a girl was mature for her age without doing a huge battery of tests and evaluations on that girl,” Franz said.
Patty Cooper spoke in favor of eliminating the doctor’s waiver because she said the waiver does nothing to protect to the girl.
“The doctor waiver does not require that a second doctor meet with the girl or even talk to her,” Cooper said.
Those against the bill say teens will be forced to get an abortion out of state and that families will get tied up in unnecessary litigation. Alisa Clements, director of public affairs for Planned Parenthood’s South Atlantic, said the bill does not encourage healthy communication between parents and children.
“Laws like this don’t force teens to talk to their parents and that can be very detrimental to the health and safety of young women,” she said.
The current state law requires a minor to give a 24-hour notice to a parent or legal guardian, but that requirement can be bypassed by the doctor’s authorization or if she goes to court and obtains a waiver.
The bill is currently before the House Judiciary Committee.
A similar bill in the Senate (SB 424) is pending in the Senate Health and Human Resources Committee.