Gov. Jim Justice (D-W.Va.) signed legislation in late April that stops doctors from waiving West Virginia’s requirement that a teenager’s parents be notified before the underage girl can have an abortion.
Under House Bill 2002, only a judge could grant a waiver of the state’s law requiring that parents be told when their child is going to have an abortion.
The Associated Press reported there were only four physician waivers issued in 2015 and only 48 teenagers had abortions in the state. Pro-life advocates called the approval of HB 2002 a resounding victory in the battle to “stop abortionists from doing secret abortions on teen girls.”
Pro-choice forces said some teenage girls, especially those who were the victims of incest, need physician waivers. The last thing those girls want to do is to notify their parents.
“If I had to involve my parents, who did not have my best interests at heart, and they made me carry a child, I would have killed myself,” Jacqueline Jacovidis, a survivor of sexual abuse who had an abortion as a teenager, told a state House panel during a hearing on HB 2002.
The Charleston Gazette-Mail reported Sen. Mike Azinger (R) spoke in support of the legislation at that hearing by pointing to the Ten Commandments and a “holy sacred relationship” between a child and her parents.
Sen. Robert Karnes said teenagers who get abortions could become drug addicts or alcoholics, suffer from depression, and wind up killing themselves.
According to the Guttmacher Institute – a pro-choice group – 37 states require some level of parental involvement in a teenage girl’s decision to have an abortion. Twenty-one states require parental consent only, three of which require both parents to sign off on the abortion.
Eleven other states require only that the girls’ parents be notified.
Karen Cross, the legislative coordinator of West Virginians for Life, said HB 2002 closed a loophole in West Virginia’s previous teenage abortion law that allowed for a second doctor to approve a minor girl’s abortion without her parents’ knowledge. She said the bill still allows for a judicial bypass in abusive situations.
“Children don’t understand the long-term emotional, psychological, and physical consequences of making this major life-changing decision,” Cross said. “We are pleased that the governor agreed with the huge bipartisan majority that parents have a right to know when their minor daughter is having an abortion, an invasive surgical procedure.”
Cross also said the new law provides for a judge to bypass the doctor’s decision in cases of abuse.
“If a child is a victim of sexual abuse, I find it unbelievable that she can be given a secret abortion and returned to the abuse,” Cross said. “This law should rectify that because judges are mandatory reporters.”
However, a litany of medical organizations including the American Academy of Pediatrics contend that teenage girls should not be forced to tell their parents of plans to have an abortion.
“Legislation mandating parental involvement does not achieve the intended benefit of promoting family communication but does increase the risk of harm to the adolescent by delaying access to appropriate medical care or increasing the rate of unwanted births,” reads a statement on the AAP website.
Commenting on a proposed Missouri law that would bring non-custodial parents into a teenager’s decision to have an abortion, Elizabeth Nash, senior state issues manager for the Guttmacher Institute, said teenagers usually have a good reason for not wanting to talk to their parents.
“What we’re seeing here is really trying to legislate family communication, and substituting politicians’ judgment for how a family operates and works together,” Nash said.
West Virginians for Life president Wanda Franz said her group was also pleased with the approval of the Telemedicine Bill, which allows a physician to prescribe some controlled substances over the phone.
Franz said what WVFL likes about HB 2509 is an amendment tacked on in the state Senate that prevents doctors from long-distance prescriptions of the so-called “morning after” abortion pills.
“Women have been traumatized by the experience of delivering their own dead baby,” Franz said. “Deaths have occurred worldwide from severe infections, which may be due to suppression of the immune system by the chemicals used in the abortion.”