If you talk to the backers of House Bill 2002, the latest in the never-ending stream of attacks on reproductive rights, you’ll likely hear a lot about all the ways in which the bill protects vulnerable young women. In fact, that is the opposite of the bill’s intention.
West Virginia already has a law requiring notification of a minor’s parents when the minor seeks an abortion. The law provides two ways to get past that requirement – the first, a judicial waiver, requires the minor to file a petition in court. The second, a physician waiver, allows an unaffiliated physician to waive the requirement if they find the minor is mature enough to make the decision and parental notification would not be in their best interest.
HB 2002 changes this by effectively removing the physician waiver. A second physician can still make the findings, but they would then be required to petition the court on the minor’s behalf. This will lead to the judicial system second-guessing medical judgement. It will create additional burdens on physicians granting waivers, deterring them from using this process. And worse of all – it’s dangerous for the minor. The American Academy of Pediatrics’ Committee on Adolescence, the American Public Health Association, and the American Medical Association have all found that the judicial bypass system can both dissuade minors from pursuing the best health options, and can lead to unnecessary trauma.
This isn’t about protecting young women – it endangers them. It would be problematic if the WV Legislature would pursue a policy that contradicts the advice of major medical organization during the best of times. But it is not the best of times – the state is in the grips of a budget; and yet the Legislature deems it wise and necessary to waste time and resources on this ill-advised piece of legislation.
Fortunately there is an opportunity to tell them how you feel about. There will be a public hearing on Monday, March 20 at 8:30 AM. We encourage you to show up and tell the Legislature how you feel about their priorities.