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Group pushes for abortion regulation

CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- A Christian evangelical group that's suing a Charleston abortion clinic called on state legislators Monday to pass laws that regulate abortion in West Virginia.

The Family Policy Council of West Virginia announced its "Illuminate Campaign" for abortion oversight during a press conference at the state Capitol.

"There are more regulations for tattoo studios and veterinary medical clinics than for the abortion clinics of this state," said Jeremiah Dys, president of the Family Policy Council, which opposes abortion.

West Virginia Attorney General Patrick Morrisey is reviewing abortion regulation in the state. Morrisey, who opposes abortion, has said abortion facilities are "neither licensed nor regulated by the state." Dys encouraged West Virginians to send comments to Morrisey's office.

"The Illuminate Campaign seeks to mobilize comments by West Virginians and pro-life organizations in support of reasonable health and safety regulations," Dys said.

Dys is representing a Charleston woman who filed a lawsuit in June against a Charleston doctor and Women's Health Center of West Virginia, alleging she suffered a botched abortion at the facility last year. The lawsuit also alleges the woman was restrained and forced to have an abortion against her will. The clinic has denied the allegations.

About a dozen state lawmakers -- both Republicans and Democrats -- attended Dys' press conference Monday at the state Capitol rotunda. Legislators are attending interim meetings in Charleston this week. During the past legislative session, the House passed a resolution (HCR 167) to study abortion regulation.

"It's beyond belief there's no regulation here," said Senate Minority Leader Mike Hall, R-Putnam.

Dys said he was disappointed by Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin's "silence" on the need for abortion regulation in West Virginia.

"While abortion remains legal, we are committed to exposing the abortion industry and bringing their dangerous work out into the safety of public light," Dys said. "While good people may disagree at many points of the abortion debate, where there ought to be no debate is that so long as abortionists are permitted to ply their trade, they must do so in a matter that does as little harm as possible."

West Virginians for Life legislative director John Carey, who attended Monday's press conference, said abortion clinics "should be regulated to protect consumers, like any other business."

Carey also urged West Virginians to call Tomblin's office and ask the governor to outlaw state funding of abortions through health-care insurance plans under the new federal health-care reform law.

"The federal 'Obamacare' law makes provision for states to opt out of funding abortion in the insurance exchanges," Carey said. "Approximately half of the states have taken advantage of this provision and now opt out of state funding."

On the opposite side, Margaret Chapman Pomponio, executive director of the pro-choice organization West Virginia Free, said people who believe that health-care providers, including abortion clinics, aren't regulated "have been duped." She noted that doctors, nurses and other clinic staff members must be licensed.

"Policymakers should set their minds to promoting access to health care, not restricting it by attacking doctors and nurses," Chapman Pomponio said.

She added that government "overstep" on abortion has been a "disaster" in states such as Texas, where state lawmakers recently passed an omnibus abortion bill that is one of the most restrictive in the nation.

"Attorney General Morrisey and a small group of legislators are teaming up to try to take West Virginia backward," Chapman Pomponio said Monday. "West Virginia women and the men who care about them aren't going to stand for this. West Virginians value a woman's health over politics."

As part of his group's campaign, Dys said the Family Policy Council would hold several events across the state to spotlight the need for abortion oversight. On an upcoming Sunday in October, churches plan to "pray for the families scarred by the abortion industry," Dys said.

Reach Eric Eyre at ericeyre@wvgazette.com or 304-348-4869.


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