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Adolescent abortion bill up for floor vote in WV House


Charleston Gazette-Mail

CHARLESTON, W.Va. — The House Judiciary Committee approved a bill Thursday that would place new restrictions on adolescent abortion in West Virginia.

Lawmakers had originally introduced a bill that would no longer allow a physician to waive the parental notification requirement before an adolescent abortion. The bill, sponsored by Delegate Kayla Kessinger, R-Fayette, would have required the minor to be emancipated or go before a judge for abortion access.

West Virginia law currently requires a doctor to give parents at least 24 hours notice before another doctor can perform an abortion on an adolescent, but it includes two exceptions — minors may obtain a waiver from a physician or from a judge.

After a public hearing drew mostly opposition, from both sexual abuse survivors and women’s health advocates, the judiciary committee sent the bill to a subcommittee for further review.

Members of the subcommittee, which included Delegates Amy Summers, R-Taylor, Barbara Fleischauer, D-Monongalia and Kessinger, amended the bill so that most physicians would no longer be able to waive parental notification, but psychiatrists, as well as licensed psychologists, would be able to do so.

Thursday, the judiciary committee approved the subcommittee’s amended version of the bill and sent it to the House floor for a vote. If it passes there, it will also have to go to the state Senate for consideration.

Summers said after the meeting that she wasn’t aware of where the state psychological or psychiatric associations stood on the legislation.

Mark Drennan, executive director of the West Virginia Behavioral Healthcare Providers Association, said they do not have an official stance on the bill, but upon first look, they are concerned about how quickly adolescent girls could access a psychologist or psychiatrist and would like to see a process in place for getting them referred quickly.

“I’m sure our members would be willing to do that,” he said.

The association represents the 13 comprehensive community mental health care centers in West Virginia, as well as some private clinics.

“Nobody’s asked about that,” he said.

Allison Adler, spokeswoman for Department of Health and Human Resources, said DHHR has also not been consulted for input.

In the original version of the bill, physicians could also have been subject to criminal penalties. The House Health and Human Resources Committee previously amended it so that physicians who violate the law are subject to discipline from state licensing boards.

The American Academy of Pediatrics’ Committee on Adolescence, the American Public Health Association and the American Medical Association have spoken out against requiring minors to go to court for access to care.

West Virginia Free, the West Virginia Coalition Against Domestic Violence, Planned Parenthood, the American Civil Liberties Union of West Virginia, the West Virginia Citizen Action Group and the West Virginia State Medical Association spoke against the original bill. West Virginians for Life and the Catholic Conference of West Virginia have supported it.

Following Tuesday’s subcommittee meeting, representatives of WV Free and the ACLU who were present said they continue to oppose the bill.

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