SCOTUS abortion ruling could impact local region

Published: Dec. 1, 2021 at 6:28 PM EST
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CHARLESTON, W.Va. (WSAZ) - The U.S. Supreme Court heard oral arguments Wednesday regarding the constitutionality of Mississippi’s 15-week ban on abortions. However, all sides agree the ultimate ruling will affect access to abortion in every state, including West Virginia.

West Virginia Free traveled to Washington for the occasion. Its executive director, Margaret Chapman Pomponio, told a virtual press conference that Wednesday’s argument should be a wake-up call. A representative from Planned Parenthood called it a red alert moment for reproductive freedom.

“This cannot be viewed as a discussion of some theoretical future, where West Virginians can no longer legally access abortion,” said Loree Stark, legal director for ACLU West Virginia. “Roe is on the line, and the constitutional rights of West Virginians are at stake.”

Mississippi’s 15-week ban is much earlier than prior Supreme Court rulings that have protected abortion up to the point of viability, at roughly 24 weeks.

Wanda Franz, president of West Virginians For Life, monitored developments from Morgantown. She said she hopes the Supreme Court will protect unborn life and return decision making on abortion to the states. However, she is uncertain that overturning Roe v. Wade will lead to an immediate ban on abortion in West Virginia.

“I don’t think we can say that for sure,” she said. “I think it’s going to have to be something that’s going to have to be adjudicated. I don’t think that we know that that law would automatically spring back to effect.”

The law that Franz spoke of has been on West Virginia’s books since before Roe v. Wade. It criminalizes abortion, and court observers say it is one reason why West Virginia could be among 21 states where a ban could be immediate.

They also point to passage of Amendment 1 in 2018, which says nothing in West Virginia’s constitution secures or protects a right to abortion.

“It’s pretty dire,” Stark said. “While Roe is in effect, there are certainly still protections, but if Roe is overturned, then that’s all up in the air.”

Similar laws exist in Ohio and Kentucky.

Adding to the intrigue of Wednesday’s oral argument was the make up of the court, which now includes three appointees by former President Donald Trump.

A decision is not expected until next June.

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