A 12-year-old gave passionate testimony on Wednesday at the West Virginia legislature, opposing a new abortion ban that would outlaw the procedure in all but the most extreme cases.
“I play for varsity volleyball and I run track. My education is very important to me, and I plan on doing great things in life,” Addison Gardner of Buffalo Middle School told lawmakers during a special session. “If a man decides that I’m an object, and does unspeakable, tragic things to me, am I, a child, supposed to carry and birth another child?”
“Am I to put my body through the physical trauma of pregnancy? Am I to suffer the mental implications, a child who had no say in what was being done with my body?” she added. “Some here say they are pro-life. What about my life? Does my life not matter to you?”
Lawmakers are currently considering House Bill 302, which would ban almost all abortions, except for pregnancies with medical emergencies, ectopic pregnancies, or fetuses deemed medically nonviable.
In the wake of the Supreme Court decision striking down Roe v Wade, and a West Virginia court ruling temporarily halting the state’s 1800s-era abortion laws, Governor Jim Justice, a Republican, called for lawmakers to modernise and clarify abortion restrictions.
“From the moment the Supreme Court announced their decision in Dobbs, I said that I would not hesitate to call a Special Session once I heard from our Legislative leaders that they had done their due diligence and were ready to act,” Mr Justice said in a statement on Monday. “As I have said many times, I very proudly stand for life and I believe that every human life is a miracle worth protecting.”
At the hearing on Wednesday, numerous activists, medical professionals, and concerned citisens opposed the bill, with some being escorted out to cheers as they went over their allotted speaking time. Lawmakers voted to amend the bill to add exceptions for victims of rape and incest.
House lawmakers ultimately passed the bill on Wednesday, sending it to the state senate for consideration.
Supports of the bill ignored chants of “face us” coming from spectators and those outside the legislative chamber.
“What’s ringing in my ears is not the noise of the people here,” Republican Brandon Steele, a supporter of HB 302, told the Associated Press. “It’s the cries of the unborn, tens of thousands of unborn children that are dead today. … Their blood screams from the ground today that you end this scar on our state, that you remove this curse from this land that was put upon us by a court so long ago.”
Abortion restrictions in the state, where the procedure is currently allowed until 20 to 22 weeks, were temporarily put on hold by a state court decision last week.
Kanawha County Circuit Court Judge Tara Salango issued a temporary injunction against West Virginia’s circa-1800s law making all abortions felonies, finding that later laws and ruling muddied the legality of the provision.
The decision allowed Woman’s Health Center of West Virginia, the only abortion clinic in state, to temporarily continue operating.
“The plaintiffs and their patients, especially those who are impregnated as a result of a rape or incest, are already suffering irreparable harm in the absence of an injunction,” Judge Salango said on Monday. “Defendants will suffer no injury from this injunction that is not suffered from the prior half century of non-enforcement of this crime. It is inequitable to allow the state of West Virginia to maintain conflicting laws on its books.”
“It simply does not matter whether you are pro-choice or pro-life,’’ she added. “Every citizen in this state has a right to clearly know the laws under which they are expected to live.”
State officials challenged the ruling, bring it to a West Virginia appeals court.
Numerous Republican-controlled states have sought to impose new abortion restrictions or total bans since Roe was struck down in June.