BECKLEY, WV (WVNS) – When Roe v. Wade was overturned Friday morning, the abortion law in place in the state of West Virginia immediately returned to a statute passed 140 years ago, back in 1882.
The statute criminalizes abortion both for the woman actually getting the abortion and the doctor who performs the procedure.
The law states that any person who “acts with intent to destroy an unborn child” is guilty of a felony and faces between 3 to 10 years in prison. And if the woman dies during the procedure, her doctor can be charged with not only a felony but also murder.
59News spoke to local women around the community to ask what their opinions were when they heard the Supreme Court’s ruling.
“It’s just taken so many rights away. And it’s just, like, putting us in danger and putting the babies in danger,” said Laikyn Carte.
“It’s just going to ban safe abortions. Because people are still going to try anything to not be pregnant,” said Brier Brogan.
But not everyone agreed.
“Human life begins at conception,” Layne Sallee told 59News. “And I think an argument you don’t hear anymore is the ‘it’s a clump of cells,’ you don’t hear that anymore. So I think most people realize it is a baby. And I think it’s great progress and I hope they move forward with it.”
AWAY is a local women’s resource center, with locations in Beckley, Fayetteville, Hinton, and Summersville, and executive director of the organization Reginia Thomas says today’s decision takes constitutional rights away from women.
“This decision by the US Supreme Court to overturn Roe vs Wade effectively ends a more than 50-year-old constitutional right to abortions in the US. This is a major step backward on our rights to bodily integrity, autonomy, and privacy,” Thomas said in a statement to 59News.
Aside from its role as a community resource for women, AWAY also serves a critical role as a rape crisis center in Southern West Virginia.
The 1882 statute that now controls abortion law in West Virginia, makes no exceptions to allow abortions in cases of rape.
Thomas says that will affect a far bigger number of women than many people might expect.
“According to the most recent National Intimate Partner and Sexual Violence Survey, 14.9% of female victims of rape became pregnant,” said Thomas.
Under the new law, women in West Virginia would be legally required to see those pregnancies to term.
Pregnancies caused by incest, ectopic pregnancies, or any other extenuating circumstances are also not exempt from the law.
Katie Quinonez, head of the Women’s Resource Center in Charleston, the only abortion clinic in the state, announced her clinic was forced to cancel over 60 abortions scheduled for the coming weeks in light of today’s news.