Editorials, Opinion

Pro-birth law will diminish quality of life in West Virginia

We have made it clear where we stand on abortion bans. Instead of reiterating why HB 302’s various restrictions are idiotic, impractical and inhumane, we’re going to look at the bigger picture.

Restricting access to abortions will have far-reaching and long-lasting consequences. It may take months, years, even decades to fully understand HB 302’s impact on the state’s population and economy, but we predict West Virginia is likely to experience the following:

○ An increase in abortions and abortion-related deaths. Decades of data and research have shown one universal truth: Banning or restricting abortion does not stop abortions; it only makes them more dangerous. According to the Council on Foreign Relations, in countries where abortion is broadly legal, abortion rates dropped by 43% over 30 years; in countries with restrictive laws, abortion increased by 12% — and so did the number of unsafe abortions. The World Health Organization estimates 13% of all maternal deaths are a result of unsafe abortions. West Virginia is likely to see similar results, since the new law specifically excludes the state’s only abortion provider from performing the procedure from now on.

○ Higher addiction and death rates among women of childbearing age. Pregnancy can be traumatic; a forced pregnancy even more so. With no physical escape route, women will likely turn to methods of mental escape: drugs and alcohol. Be prepared to see substance abuse and excessive alcohol use skyrocket among young women — along with accidental overdose and alcohol poisoning deaths. But also be prepared for the suicide rate — attempted and successful — among this demographic to increase dramatically.

○  A continuing, if not extreme, population decrease, particularly of women.  Young professionals — who are increasingly young women — aren’t attracted to places that curb their and their peers’ civil rights and encourage discrimination based on sex, sexuality and gender. Not only will fewer young people come into the state, but the emigration of West Virginia natives to other states is likely to increase. Women born here will be more likely to move to states that have greater respect for their individual choices and reproductive rights.

○ Fewer women in the workforce and staffing shortages, particularly for jobs primarily filled by women.  The problem of women leaving and/or refusing to come to West Virginia — plus a likely increase in substance abuse — will be compounded by the number of women who have to leave the workforce due to pregnancy and childbirth. According to the Institute for Family Policy, the second highest proportion of stay-at-home moms are among low-income households (than $25,000 annually), because child care costs are greater than what a second income could bring in.

○ An exponential increase in poverty, particularly for women and children, and an increase in reliance on welfare services.  The Turnaway Project, which studied and compared the lives of women who were denied an abortion to those who were able to get one, found women denied an abortion were more likely to live in poverty, be unemployed and to need Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) benefits. In West Virginia, we’re likely to see increased reliance on SNAP and WIC benefits and free school lunch programs. The Mountain State already has a poverty rate of almost 16% — 18% for women — and it will only get worse.

○ A drastic increase in the number of children in foster care. Many, if not most, of those unwanted babies will end up in the foster care system. However, it’s unlikely the number of foster parents and adoptive parents will increase proportionally. Private adoption is usually too expensive for the families who are actually interested, and too few people are willing to step up as foster parents.

With its pro-birth law, the Legislature has decreased the quality of life for all West Virginians — present and future.