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Poll: Plurality of W.Va. voters oppose more abortion regulations

CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- A new poll commissioned by an abortion rights agency suggests that West Virginians do not support more regulations that some say are meant to close abortion clinics.

Planned Parenthood sponsored the poll, which found that 49 percent of voters in West Virginia oppose adding more restrictions to the state's abortion clinics. Twenty-eight percent of people support more restrictions and 23 percent are not sure, according to the poll.

North Carolina-based Public Policy Polling did the poll, which questioned 759 West Virginia voters between Nov. 15 and 17.

The survey also found that more West Virginians disapprove of Attorney General Patrick Morrisey after hearing that he proposed more regulations for abortion providers in the state.

When initially asked if they approve of the job Morrisey's doing as attorney general, 32 percent said they approve, 26 said they disapprove and 41 percent said they weren't sure.

After being told that Morrisey is proposing increased abortion clinic regulations and that "medical experts say that these are intended to make it more difficult and more expensive for the health centers to stay open, which could threaten women's access to medical care," 45 percent disapproved of the job Morrisey is doing as attorney general, 32 percent approve and 23 percent were not sure.

"This poll sends a clear message and a warning to all politicians in Charleston: Health decisions should be left to a woman in consultation with her family and her doctor -- not politicians," Melissa Reed, vice president of Public Affairs for Planned Parenthood said in an email to the Gazette.

Margaret Chapman Pomponio, executive director of the reproductive rights group WV Free, echoed Reed's comments.

"The poll is undeniable evidence that the attorney general is out of step with West Virginia voters," she said. "He does not share our West Virginia values. I think the Legislature will find these results very interesting and find good reason to reject the attorney general's overreaching attempt to set their policy agenda."

In June, Morrisey announced a review into the state's abortion regulations. The review followed a lawsuit by Itai Gravely, a woman who alleged that a doctor at the Women's Health Center of West Virginia botched her abortion. The Family Policy Council of West Virginia, a conservative, anti-abortion group representing Gravely, pushed for more regulations.

"The merits of that lawsuit must still be resolved in court, but it does raise serious questions about how such clinics in West Virginia are inspected and reviewed to ensure patients are safe," Morrisey said in a prepared statement at the time.

Morrisey's office did not respond to a request for comment on Friday.

Before he was elected, Morrisey's campaign website said he was against abortion.

Over the summer Morrisey accepted public comments about the state's abortion regulations. Morrisey's office has not yet released those comments.

Abortion rights advocates have argued that proposed regulations are meant not to increase safety, but to make it more difficult for abortion clinics to comply, potentially forcing them to close.

Jeremiah Dys, general council for Family Policy Council, said on Friday that the regulations were for the safety of women.

"At a time when the safety and health of every woman in West Virginia is on the line, it is disappointing to see the abortion industry attempting to regain their popularity by playing push-poll politics," Dys said in an email to the Gazette. "A woman's life is much more important than the popularity of the abortion industry in West Virginia.

"Rather than parsing questions on a push-poll, West Virginia's abortion industry ought to join the rest of the state in making serious proposals -- as we have done -- that will ensure the health and safety of our state's sisters and daughter."

Questions and results of the poll are as follows:

Question 1: Do you approve or disapprove of the job Patrick Morrisey is doing as West Virginia Attorney General?

Approve: 32 percent

Disapprove: 26 percent

Not sure: 41 percent

Question 2: As well as abortion procedures, two abortion providers in Charleston also offer women low-cost health services, such as routine health exams, birth control, pap smears, and breast cancer screenings, that could be lost if they were forced to comply with unnecessary and onerous regulations being proposed by Attorney General Morrisey. Medical experts say that these proposed regulations do nothing to improve women's health or safety. Instead, medical experts say they are intended to make it more difficult and more expensive for the health centers to stay open, which could threaten women's access to necessary medical care. From what you know, do you support or oppose these proposed regulations?

Support: 28 percent

Oppose: 49 percent

Not Sure: 23 percent

Question 3: Do you think the Attorney General should be seeking to restrict a doctor's ability to provide safe and legal abortion procedures through regulations opposed by doctors and medical experts?

Think he should: 36 percent

Do not think he should: 46 percent

Not Sure: 18 percent

Question 4: Having heard the information in this poll, let me ask you again, do you approve or disapprove of the job Patrick Morrisey is doing as West Virginia Attorney General?

Approve: 32 percent

Disapprove: 45 percent

Not sure: 23 percent

Reach Lori Kersey at lori.kersey@wvgazette.com or 304-348-1240.


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