CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- We spoke too soon when we praised the Legislature for avoiding emotional "God, guns and gays" fundamentalist issues that distract lawmakers and hinder progress on important West Virginia work. A new upheaval has arisen.
Doctors would be thrown into prison for ending pregnancies after the 20th week -- and also be slapped with civil lawsuits -- under a bill drafted by Senate President Jeff Kessler, D-Marshall, and Sen. Roman Prezioso, D-Marion.
Evangelical backers rallied at the Statehouse to support Senate Bill 589. They said it would declare a fetus after 20 weeks to be a "person" with legal rights like other citizens -- although the bill itself lacks such language.
Oddly, under the proposed law, it would be perfectly legal to halt a pregnancy on the 19th week, about halfway through gestation -- but it would be a prison felony to do so a week later.
This is just another attempt by far-right "social conservatives" to inflict as much harm as possible on physicians who terminate pregnancies, and to intimidate desperate teen-age girls and women who exercise their legal right to choose. It never stops. Year after year, the same effort returns to the Legislature in a different form.
Supposedly, the 20-week cutoff is based on a claim that fetuses feel pain at that point. But no trustworthy evidence supports this premise.
"Politicians have no business trying to wade into the practice of medicine and redefining science," pro-choice crusader Margaret Pomponio said, correctly.
At the same time Kessler and Prezioso were attacking women's right to choose, the yearly West Virginia Kids Count report showed a dismal trend: West Virginia is the only state in America where teen pregnancies are rising.
"We are very alarmed that more babies are being born to teens, and more of those teens are unmarried," director Margie Hale commented. Such too-young single mothers often quit school and sink into poverty. Their children are more likely to become losers who fail at school, get into police trouble and become welfare-dependent.
A better use of Kessler's and Prezioso's time would be finding and funding real solutions that help teens set goals for their future.