On Wellness in WV

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In late March, I wrote about how an adolescent abortion bill had been amended into a “compromise” in the House of Delegates.

Under current law, a physician can decide that a girl is mature enough to make the decision on her own, or that telling her parents would not be in her best interest, before a second physician performs the abortion.

The bill, House Bill 2002,  made it so physicians could no longer do so, requiring them to go to court instead for a judicial bypass – a process the American Academy of Pediatrics, among numerous other opposed medical organizations, has said “poses risks of medical and psychological harm.”

After sexual abuse survivors testified during a public hearing, three lawmakers, including Delegate Kayla Kessinger, Barbara Fleischauer, and Amy Summers, worked in a House of Delegates judiciary subcommittee to amend the bill so that most physicians could no longer waive parental notification, but that licensed psychologists and psychiatrists would be able to do so.

But as the compromise bill continued to make its way through the Legislature, leading supporters of policies restricting abortion, including Karen Cross, of the National Right to Life Committee, said they couldn’t speak to the bill because they didn’t know what was in it, and that it was moving so quickly.

So, I wondered what they were telling lawmakers, and supporters.

When the Senate reverted the bill back to its original version during a evening meeting that was not announced and was not added to the video archives that night, dispensed with another committee reference, and sent the bill to the floor for another vote, it certainly seemed like there was never a compromise.

But a few emails, obtained through an open records request, can tell us a little more about how it happened.

On March 30, Karen Cross and Mary Anne Buchanan, of West Virginians for Life, emailed lawmakers, saying there were “changes that need to be made to the bill. Please support the strike and insert.”

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In a previous email to Delegate Tom Fast, R- Fayette, Cross had said she believed working with the Senate on the bill would be “easier.”

When asking senators to vote for the final bill, they said it had “undergone a number of compromises.”

The sentence wording is vague, and I don’t know if any senators took the language to mean the final bill was approved by the medical community or women’s health advocates.

It wasn’t.

I’m reminded that when the Senate passed the original version of the bill, Margaret Chapman Pomponio, executive director of WV Free, told me they had supported the amended version because compromise on abortion legislation was “almost unheard of.”

I’ve emailed both Cross and Kessinger, the lead sponsor, for comments and will update this post if/when they respond.