Girl, 12, asks West Virginia legislators after abortion ban vote: 'What about my life?'

State is likely to become first in US to pass restrictive legislation after Supreme Court overturned Roe v Wade

Twelve-year-old decries abortion ban in West Virginia

Addison Gardner. Photo: Screengrab
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A 12-year-old girl criticised West Virginia legislators after they approved an abortion bill that would ban the procedure, with only some exceptions.

The bill would prohibit abortion at any stage of pregnancy with exceptions only in the event of a non-medically viable foetus, medical emergency or ectopic pregnancy.

If passed, West Virginia will become the first US state to pass legislation restricting access to abortion after the Supreme Court removed its status as a constitutional right.

Under the bill, medical providers who perform abortions could face prison sentences of three to 10 years. The House of Delegates earlier this week allowed exceptions for victims of rape and incest up to 14 weeks of pregnancy, provided the victim reports the attack to police.

The bill did not initially allow exceptions. Addison Gardner of Buffalo Middle School posed a chilling hypothetical scenario after the chamber passed the bill.

“If a man decides that I’m an object and does unspeakable and tragic things to me, am I, a child, supposed to carry and birth another child?” she said.

“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.

"Some in here say they are pro life. What about my life? Does my life not matter to you?”

State legislators passed the legislation in a special session called by Governor Jim Justice to "clarify and modernise" the state's abortion laws.

After the Supreme Court's ruling last month, West Virginia Attorney General Patrick Morrisey said abortion was banned in the state, citing a law from the 1800s. But a Charleston judge on July 18 barred the state from enforcing the ban, ruling that it had been superseded by conflicting modern laws.

During hours of debate in the West Virginia House chamber, protesters chanting and screaming outside could be heard in the chamber. "Face us," the crowd yelled.

“What’s ringing in my ears is not the noise of the people here,” said one of the bill’s supporters, Brandon Steele, a Republican state legislator.

“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.”

Others speaking at the public hearing on Wednesday cried, including a woman who claimed that an abortion saved her life and a mother who said her teenage daughter was raped at a sleepover last year.

Updated: July 29, 2022, 4:09 PM