If Roe is reversed, West Virginia has an abortion ban already on the books

If a U.S. Supreme Court majority reverses the historic Roe vs. Wade decision as a leaked opinion suggests, West Virginia already has a law that would outlaw abortion.

West Virginia voters have also approved a state constitutional amendment to specify that “Nothing in this Constitution secures or protects a right to abortion or requires the funding of abortion.”

Those two aspects of law place West Virginia among the states most likely to ban abortion if the anticipated Supreme Court ruling leaves the matter to states, according to The Guttmacher Institute, a research organization focused on advancing reproductive health policy.

Patrick Morrisey

West Virginia Attorney General Patrick Morrisey said the tentative nature of the draft document that was leaked means it’s too soon to say how the state’s abortion policies would be affected.

“The leaked opinion is considered a draft, not a final opinion. As such, it is premature to discuss the implications of the Supreme Court decision on West Virginia,” Morrisey stated in a news release.

Morrisey continued, “When the Supreme Court’s final opinion is published, we will weigh in more formally and work closely with the legislature to protect life in all stages as much as we legally can under the law.”

For now, abortion is legal in all 50 states, including West Virginia. But that could change when a final Supreme Court ruling comes through.

“We know that Roe has never been enough, but in states like West Virginia, it is the only thing protecting our access to abortion,” said Katie Quinonez, executive director of Women’s Health Center of West Virginia, the state’s only abortion provider.

A leaked draft of the Supreme Court’s Dobbs vs. Jackson Women’s Health Organization decision was published Monday night by Politico. That case was a review of Mississippi’s law that established a statewide ban on abortion after 15 weeks.

Chief Justice John Roberts today confirmed the authenticity of the draft written by Samuel Alito but suggested it does not represent the court’s final say. “Although the document described in yesterday’s reports is authentic,” Roberts wrote, “it does not represent a decision by the court or the final position of any member on the issues in the case.”

Still, the release rocked the nation, which has been guided by Roe since 1973. West Virginians were already discussing how the presumed ruling could affect abortion access.

Margaret Chapman Pomponio

“I take absolutely zero joy in saying that we have been anticipating this,” said Margaret Chapman Pomponio, executive director of West Virginia Free, a reproductive rights organization.

“We’re waiting to see what the final decision is, of course, but we are preparing for a bad decision — and we have been. What we know about this is it is totally out of step and off the rails.”

A poll released last week for The Washington Post-ABC News concluded that 54 percent of Americans believe Roe vs Wade should be upheld while 28 percent believe it should be overturned. The same poll concluded that 57 percent oppose an abortion ban after 15 weeks while 58 percent say abortion should be legal in all or most cases.

“We know that West Virginians are compassionate people, we know they don’t like government intrusion into their private healthcare decisions, and I know personally from being up at the Capitol and talking with legislators that this would be a bridge too far,” Pomponio said today on MetroNews’ “Talkline.”

“It’s time for the reasonable legislators to get together and stop this from happening. And they can. And I firmly think that most of them believe this is too far, it’s radical in nature, and it’s dangerous.”

The law already on the books in West Virginia says administering an abortion is a felony punishable by three to 1o years imprisonment.

Alito’s draft makes early reference to state policies prior to the Roe decision. “At the time of Roe, 30 states still prohibited abortion at all stages,” he wrote. “In the years prior to that decision, about a third of states had liberalized their laws, but Roe abruptly ended that political process.

“It imposed the same highly-restrictive regime on the entire nation, and it effectively struck down the abortion laws of every single state.”

Wanda Franz

Wanda Franz, president of West Virginians for Life, said leaking the draft decision to strike down Roe has stirred up the politics of abortion. But she expressed support for the likely ruling.  “Of course, the decision as it’s written is one that we think is appropriate,” Franz said.

Of the prior Roe decision, Franz said, “it essentially legislated from the bench and prevented the country from having full-throated, regular, normal constitutional debate about the issue in the state legislatures where, of course, this issue should be decided. So what the decision appears to do is return us to a pre-Roe situation where we can begin to have elected representatives of these people make these decisions.”


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