WV Legislative Update

For Immediate Release: July 27, 2022
Contact: Jim McKay
Phone: 304-617-0099
Email: jim@teamwv.org


Legislative Update: Lawmakers should invest in proven strategies that prevent maltreatment and sexual abuse of children – not enact laws that cause harm to survivors.

Earlier this week, Prevent Child Abuse West Virginia issued a strong statement in opposition to HB302 following action by the House Judiciary Committee and by the House Health Committee to reject amendments that would provide exceptions to the criminalization of abortion in the case of incest or rape. As we have stated before, forcing raped children to give birth is state sanctioned child abuse.

While we appreciate Thursday’s slim passage (46-43) of Delegate Hardy’s amendment for narrow exceptions to the proposed WV abortion ban for rape and incest victims, limiting exceptions to less than 14 weeks and requiring reporting to law enforcement prior to care will be a barrier for rape and incest survivors getting care they need. The end result is that some survivors will not be covered by these exemptions and will be required under penalty of law to give birth to their rapist’s offspring. No one should be forced to do that.

These exceptions should be broadened to cover all victims of rape and incest, and if notification is required then notifying a mandated reporter, licensed rape crisis center, licensed domestic violence shelter, or licensed child advocacy center should be options in addition to law enforcement. This provision is especially important when it’s a disclosure from a child victim who may tell their teacher, who they trust, but not law enforcement.

The sad truth is that we have seen rape victims as young as 10 and 11 years old who need abortion services. These children are victims, and the medical professionals who care for them are not criminals.

Child abuse victims deserve access to trauma-informed services that help them heal – not be forced to endure a pregnancy and give birth to their rapist’s offspring.

An additional concern with the legislation, as passed by the House, is a mandatory 48-hour waiting period for minors under certain conditions that are permitted in the bill. When a child has medical needs, they should have access to care by their medical providers immediately – not after a 48-hour waiting period. When a parent withholds medical care from a child, they can be prosecuted for child abuse. The state should not enact a statute that withholds or delays medical care from children who need it.

We also want to note that pregnancy itself creates serious health risks for adolescents and children and can be lethal. In fact, pregnancy and childbirth complications are the leading cause of death among girls aged 15-19 globally, according to the World Health Organization.

As an organization that has worked since 1986 to prevent child abuse and neglect throughout West Virginia, and as the official state chapter of Prevent Child Abuse America, we strongly urge WV lawmakers to reject this legislation.

Our state should be investing in proven strategies that prevent the maltreatment and sexual abuse of children – not enacting laws that cause harm to victims of abuse.

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