West Virginia’s players in the abortion debate weigh-in on Talkline

CHARLESTON, W.Va. — The two sides of the abortion issue in West Virginia, like the rest of the country, watched the arguments before the Supreme Court of the United States this week with great interest. The court heard arguments and will take under advisement a challenge to a Mississippi law which forbids an abortion of any kind after a 15th week of pregnancy.

The questions from the Conservative Justices was bothersome for Margaret Chapman Pomponio, Executive Director of West Virginia FREE.


“I was very troubled,  but not surprised by the discussion and the questioning the newly appointed Justices pursued in terms of their refusal to recognize abortion as a Constitutional right,” she said.

The high court’s decision on the matter, which isn’t expected to come out until sometime next year, will be closely watched and scrutinized. It carries the potential to overturn the longstanding Roe v. Wade decision of 1973. That ruling legalized abortion nationwide. Many court observes think a reversal of the highly controversial opinion is likely given the court’s current makeup.

Such a change is the fervent hope of Wanda Franz of West Virginians for Life who believed such action is inevitable.

“I think obviously what we want is to overturn Roe, but I believe upholding the Mississippi case will be a step in the direction of undermining the premise upon which Roe is based,” she said.

Both women appeared separately to offer their observations on MetroNews Talkline Thursday.


Pomponio said over the course of time, the right to an abortion, even with Roe v. Wade still the law of the land, has been largely eroded. She predicted if the ruling reverses Roe it could be extremely harmful to West Virginia women in poverty.

“We have incredibly high poverty in West Virginia and a foster care crises and we’re having real difficulty taking care of the babies we have here. It doesn’t make any sense to try to make it harder for women to manage their own fertility and decisions about pregnancy,” she said.

But Franz said the Supreme Court got it wrong in 1973. It’s unclear if the Court would overturn Roe or just uphold the Mississippi law. According to Franz, even if a decision didn’t nullify the Roe v. Wade ruling, it would go a long way toward making the change.

“It was erroneously decided. We don’t believe there’s a Constitutional right to an abortion. We believe the right to life of the unborn baby is what is recognized in the Constitution,” she explained.

West Virginia already has a law on the books which makes it a crime to perform an abortion. The law states  “any person who shall administer to” an abortion “shall be guilty of a felony” punishable by three to ten years in prison. If a woman dies during an illegal abortion, the abortionist could be convicted of murder.

There is considerable debate among West Virginia legal scholars whether the law would become the new governance if the federal Roe decision is overturned. However, even though it was nullified by the 1973 opinion, it has stayed on the books all these years. Several attempts to have it removed were futile.

“The legislators of the state of West Virginia were unwilling to put their name on a pro-abortion position by removing that law. So, we’re one of I believe three states that never removed the legislation,” Franz said.

Just like Pomponio felt concerned and worried about the line of questioning from the Justices in Wednesday’s arguments, Franz was encouraged and hopeful.

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