Girl, 12, makes impassioned speech in defense of abortion in front of West Virginia legislature

‘What about my life?’: Girl, 12, makes impassioned speech in defense of abortion in front of West Virginia legislature saying ‘if a man does unspeakable things to me am I to birth another child?’

  • Addison Gardner, 12, was one of about 90 people who spoke in West Virginia House of Delegates as legislators passed a law criminalizing abortion
  • The bill granted exemptions for medical emergencies but not for rape or incest
  • It comes after the US Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade last month

A 12-year-old gave a speech at the West Virginia House of Delegates on Wednesday in opposition to new legislature outlawing abortion in the state.

She spoke as The House passed a bill to ban abortion in the state, where it is currently legal up up to 20 weeks post-fertilization, allowing for limited exemptions for medical emergencies and complications but not for rape or incest.

‘I play for varsity volleyball and I run track. My education is very important to me, and I plan on doing great things in life,’ said Addison Gardner, of Buffalo Middle School told lawmakers during a special session.

‘If a man decides that I’m an object, and does unspeakable, tragic things to me, am I, a child, supposed to carry and birth another child?’

A 12-year-old gave a speech at a West Virginia House of Delegates on Wednesday in opposition to new legislature outlawing abortion in the state

A 12-year-old gave a speech at a West Virginia House of Delegates on Wednesday in opposition to new legislature outlawing abortion in the state

Addison Gardner, of Buffalo Middle School, said: 'Some here say they are pro-life. What about my life? Does my life not matter to you?'

Addison Gardner, of Buffalo Middle School, said: ‘Some here say they are pro-life. What about my life? Does my life not matter to you?’

She added: ‘Am I to put my body through the physical trauma of pregnancy? Am I to suffer the mental implications, a child who had no say in what was being done with my body?’ she added, according to The Independent.

‘Some here say they are pro-life. What about my life? Does my life not matter to you?’

Gardner was one of about 90 people who spoke in the public hearing, sharing their personal stories with abortion or women’s rights ahead of the chamber passing a law to ban abortion.

The session became heated, with security escorting out many female members speaking at the hearing.

Legislators carved out exceptions to the law in cases where the fetus has no heartbeat or otherwise no chance of surviving, during a medical emergency or an ectopic pregnancy – where the fetus implants itself outside of the womb and poses a health risk to the mother.

But the bill, HB 302, did not provide an exception for rape or incest, something that women’s rights activists had strongly campaigned for.

Other attempts by Democrat lawmakers to amend the bill failed, including an amendment that would have removed criminal penalties for abortion providers.

Anti-abortion protestors stand outside the House of Delegates chamber at the West Virginia State Capitol as lawmakers prepared to head to the floor to discuss a sweeping abortion ban bill on Wednesday

Anti-abortion protestors stand outside the House of Delegates chamber at the West Virginia State Capitol as lawmakers prepared to head to the floor to discuss a sweeping abortion ban bill on Wednesday

Democratic Del. Danielle Walker of Monongalia County speaks to a crowd protesting a sweeping abortion ban bill making its way through the West Virginia Legislature at the state Capitol on July 27

Democratic Del. Danielle Walker of Monongalia County speaks to a crowd protesting a sweeping abortion ban bill making its way through the West Virginia Legislature at the state Capitol on July 27

West Virginia is one of many Republican-led states to restrict access to abortion facilities after the US Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade on June 24

The Supreme Court voted 6-3 to strike down a historic ruling that has been upheld for nearly a half a century, permitting abortions during the first two trimesters of pregnancy in the United States.

The opinion reversed 50 years of legal precedent and put abortion rights in the hands of the individual states, unless Congress intervenes.

After the Supreme Court overturned the opinion, West Virginia Attorney General Patrick Morrisey dusted off an 1849 state law criminalizing abortion, arguing via a memo that the old law was now enforceable.

Abortion lawmakers sued soon after, arguing that the law was illegal under the state constitution.

A state court judge blocked the 19th century abortion ban, allowing abortion providers to continue operating temporarily, but Morrisey soon filed an appeal to the state Supreme Court and a motion for the court to expedite the case.

Kaylen Barker, Communications Director at the state's only abortion clinic Women's Health Center of West Virginia, is escorted out of the House chamber by security during a public hearing on an abortion ban bill making its way through the West Virginia Legislature at the state Capitol Wednesday

Kaylen Barker, Communications Director at the state’s only abortion clinic Women’s Health Center of West Virginia, is escorted out of the House chamber by security during a public hearing on an abortion ban bill making its way through the West Virginia Legislature at the state Capitol Wednesday

West Virginia lawmakers on the House Judiciary Committee discuss the bill on Tuesday

West Virginia lawmakers on the House Judiciary Committee discuss the bill on Tuesday

A public backlash came when memo indicating the landmark decision would be overturned in June. 

Republican lawmakers called for the person behind a leaked Supreme Court memo to be ‘brought to justice’, denouncing the leak as an attempt to ‘intimidate’ the justices into changing their minds.

Opponents argue that as abortion rights become restricted once again, the number of abortions will not decrease, but instead will only become more dangerous. 

Before the 1973 case, which guaranteed a constitutionally protected right to abortion to all Americans women no matter the state they lived in, some women resorted to dire means to terminate their pregnancies -with around 200 women dying a year thanks to backstreet abortions.

Legal fights are underway across the country to determine whether abortion providers can continue operating and whether exemptions will be allowed in states where abortion is now illegal.

Some states have already proceeded with plans to ban the procedure, including Florida, Indiana, Montana, Nebraska, Georgia, Iowa and South Carolina, while other state officials are attempting to reestablish the right to the procedure.

Thirteen states passed trigger laws to restrict or ban abortion in the event Roe v. Wade was overturned

Thirteen states passed trigger laws to restrict or ban abortion in the event Roe v. Wade was overturned 

Roe v. Wade: The landmark 1973 Supreme Court decision that legalized abortion in America

In 1973, the U.S. Supreme Court recognized a woman’s constitutional right to an abortion in Roe v. Wade. The landmark ruling legalized abortion nationwide but divided public opinion and has been under attack ever since. 

The case was filed in 1971 by Norma McCorvey, a 22-year-old living in Texas who was unmarried and seeking a termination of her unwanted pregnancy. 

Because of state legislation preventing abortions unless the mother’s life is at risk, she was unable to undergo the procedure in a safe and legal environment.

So McCorvey sued Henry Wade, the Dallas county district attorney, in 1970. The case went on to the Supreme Court, under the filing Roe vs Wade, to protect McCorvey’s privacy.

Supreme Court Decision

The Supreme Court handed down the watershed 7-2 decision that a woman’s right to make her own medical decisions, including the choice to have an abortion, is protected under the 14th Amendment. 

In particular, that the Due Process Clause of the the 14th Amendment provides a fundamental ‘right to privacy’ that protects a woman’s liberty to choose whether or not to have an abortion.

 …nor shall any state deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law

The landmark ruling saw abortions decriminalized in 46 states, but under certain specific conditions which individual states could decide on. For example, states could decide whether abortions were allowed only during the first and second trimester but not the third (typically beyond 28 weeks). 

Impact 

Among pro-choice campaigners, the decision was hailed as a victory which would mean fewer women would become seriously – or even fatally – ill from abortions carried out by unqualified or unlicensed practitioners. Moreover, the freedom of choice was considered a significant step in the equality fight for women in the country. Victims of rape or incest would be able to have the pregnancy terminated and not feel coerced into motherhood.

However, pro-lifers contended it was tantamount to murder and that every life, no matter how it was conceived, is precious. Though the decision has never been overturned, anti-abortionists have prompted hundreds of states laws since then narrowing the scope of the ruling.

One such was the Partial-Birth Abortion Ban Act signed by President George W. Bush in 2003, which banned a procedure used to perform second-trimester abortions.   

McCorvey lived a quiet life until the 1980s when she revealed herself to be Jane Roe

McCorvey lived a quiet life until the 1980s when she revealed herself to be Jane Roe

Norma McCorvey (Jane Roe)

Following the ruling, McCorvey lived a quiet life until the 1980s when she revealed herself to be Jane Roe. McCorvey became a leading, outspoken pro-abortion voice in American discourse, even working at a women’s clinic where abortions were performed.

However,  she performed an unlikely U-turn in 1995, becoming a born again Christian and began traveling the country speaking out against the procedure.

In 2003, a she filed a motion to overturn her original 1973 ruling with the U.S. district court in Dallas. The motion moved through the courts until it was ultimately denied by the Supreme Court in 2005.

McCorvey died at an assisted living home in Texas in February 2017, aged 69. 

‘The Heartbeat bill’

Multiple governors have signed legislation outlawing abortion if a doctor can detect a so-called ‘fetal heartbeat,’ part of a concerted effort to restrict abortion rights in states across the country.

Under the ban doctors will be prosecuted for flouting the rules.

Abortion-rights supporters see the ‘heartbeat bills’ as virtual bans because ‘fetal heartbeats’ can be detected as early as six weeks, when women may not be aware they are pregnant.

Anti-abortion campaigners have intensified their efforts since Donald Trump was elected president and appointed two conservative justices to the US Supreme Court, hopeful they can convince the right-leaning court to re-examine Roe v. Wade.

Georgia, Ohio, Missouri, and Louisiana have enacted ‘heartbeat laws’ recently, and Alabama passed an even more restrictive version in May, amounting to a near total ban on abortion from the moment of conception. Other states have similar legislation pending.

Similar laws has also been passed in Arkansas, Mississippi, North Dakota, Iowa and Kentucky, though they have been blocked by courts from going into effect as legal challenges have been brought against them.

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