Thousands of West Virginians signed a petition asking state lawmakers to make a change to the Affordable Care Act here in the state.
Tuesday West Virginians For Life, conservative lawmakers and members of the clergy gathered at the state capitol to present those petitions to House Minority Leader Tim Armstead. They want West Virginia to opt-out of taxpayer funded abortions as part of the new health care plan.
“The petitions that we have gathered so far in our effort to let our state leaders know that the people of West Virginia truly do not want to pay for abortions in the health care exchanges…this is over 12 lbs. of paper, around 7,000 signatures,” said West Virginians for Life President Wanda Franz as she put her hand on a large stack of papers wrapped in a red ribbon.
According to the abortion provisions in the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, “There is no requirement in ACA that health care plans cover abortion, nor is there a prohibition preventing plans from covering abortion. Rather, ACA gives health care plans participating in state exchanges the ability to determine whether or not to cover abortion
West Virginians for Life lobbyist John Carey said, “As of July 23rd, 23 states have chosen to pass legislation to opt out of tax payer funding of abortion.”
But Margaret Chapman Pomponio, with pro-choice group West Virginia Free, has a different take on the ACA.
“The law is really clear. There is no funding for abortion care in the health care law. It is absolutely clear,” stressed Pomponio. “So to waste time trying to pass a law that is totally unnecessary just doesn’t make good sense.”
One of those standing with the pro-life supporters is Ed Gaunch. He’s with Believe in West Virginia, a non-profit, non-denominational group that takes its guidance from the Bible. He believes it’s important that West Virginians know they have a say when it comes to abortions.
“I just believe all life is precious. This shouldn’t be a political football,” said Gaunch. “For me it’s a matter of doing the right thing.”
Gaunch said it is a woman’s right to have an abortion but it’s the taxpayer’s right not to pay for it.
Pomponio believes those who signed the petition are just looking for another way to get rid of Obamacare.
“It seems odd now to be spending time and resources in West Virginia on trying to fight the implementation of health care reform. We need to move forward,” said Pomponio. “They are trying to move backwards and stall.”
Previous attempts by pro-life advocates have been unsuccessful in the past. A law banning tax payer funding of abortions failed to pass during the state's 2013 Legislative Session.
Nearly 7,000 signatures have been collected over the last three weeks and West Virginia's House minority leader, Republican Delegate Tim Armstead, said more people are saying they're against abortion coverage. He said he plans to address the issue during the 2014 Legislative Session.
According to the National Conference of State Legislatures, nearly half of the country's states have passed laws similar to what Armstead would like to propose which ban funding abortions with tax money.