“We’re going to make sure everyone who’s anti-abortion hears what the hell we have to say!”
That’s what Del said. Danielle Walker, D-Monongalia, of a crowd of more than 100 people who gathered in downtown Lewisburg on Tuesday to protest the state’s possible passage of a “no exception” abortion law. Walker then led the crowd with a booming chant of “My body, my choice!”
“Mountaineers should be free,” Walker continued. “But we have some scammers in the People’s House, and we must vote them out!”
The rally, which also served as a fundraiser for the West Virginia Women’s Health Center — the state’s only functioning abortion clinic — included a musical performance by folk-rock band MA’AM and remarks from Walker and several others.
“Although abortion is still legal in West Virginia to this day, we are not naïve,” Ramsie Monk, development director for the Women’s Health Center, said at the beginning of the rally. “We know it’s only a matter of time before anti-abortion activists gather in the Capitol to strip us of our rights and try to take away our right to bodily autonomy.”
Also present for the rally were House candidates Heather Hill and Paul Detch, both Democrats from Greenbrier County. Hill kicks Del. Todd Longanacre, R-Greenbrier on while Detch versus Del. Mike Honaker, R-Greenbrier, who was appointed to the House of Representatives by Gov. Jim Justice after former Delegate Barry Bruce resigned his seat halfway through his term. Both Longanacre and Honaker voted for HB 302, the failed House of Representatives abortion bill “no exceptions.”
“I recently spoke to a woman who went from being a Republican to a Democrat,” Detch told the crowd. “Of course I encouraged her, but she made a statement that I had a bit of a problem with. She said abortion is a ‘women’s issue’.”
“I don’t think so,” Detch remarked. “Abortion is a human rights issue”
Detch, whose comment drew one of the biggest ovations of the night, went on to explain how a diagnosis of a terminal illness forced him and his wife to retire shortly after the original Roe v. Wade to seek abortion treatment.
“I mention this at length to you because my opponents (Honaker and Longanacre) want to bring more children into the world who will suffer the same fate,” Detch added. “And they still want to claim the moral high ground.”
“Roe v. Wade was a gift from God,” Detch continued. “I believe there is a God in heaven — to look down and listen to the prayers of grieving parents, to hear the cries of pain in dying children, to see the injustice that women are treated unequally to men. God gave Roe v. Wade as a gift. That is my message and I want to deliver it in Charleston.”
“If you believe the saying ‘hell hath no anger like a woman despised,’ then Todd Longanacre, Michael Honaker and Vince Deeds must feel the full heat of your anger,” Detch concluded.
Deeds is the Republican nominee for the 10th Senate district, which includes Greenbrier, Fayette, Monroe, Nicholas, and Summers counties. The seat is held by Senator Stephen Baldwin, a Democrat.
Heather Hill, a clinical therapist and licensed social worker, spoke next, saying, “I’m tired of these other candidates talking about ‘freedom first.’ There is no freedom without medical freedom or freedom for all. I’m mad and I’m sad and you should be too.”
Hill then recounted several experiences she had during her 12 years as the sole abortion counselor at the Women’s Health Center in Charleston.
“I’m thinking about the 11-year-old girl who was raped by the 37-year-old when she came into my office,” Hill said, with a wealth of emotion in her voice. “I held her hand as I walked down the hall to the OR, and this state trooper – his hands were shaking as he waited for the DNA evidence. This little girl from Boone County, her whole dream was to come to Charleston, but not like this.”
“But now this little 11-year-old is going to have her rapist’s baby,” Hill continued. “She won’t report it. She didn’t want to report that. And then there was the woman whose husband stabbed her four times in the face. She had to fake her own death, and her three-year-old little boy faked his death and waited for his father to shoot himself. She was my patient. And now she may not be able to[have an abortion].”
Walker, who delivered the evening’s keynote address, concluded by saying: “How many family members, loved ones, colleagues, coal miners, school teachers, first responders will we lose? An abortion ban doesn’t mean it goes away, it just means we don’t have safe, accessible, and affordable abortions.
“We have to show up,” Walker said. “We must ensure (we continue to have access to) safe, accessible, and affordable abortion in West Virginia, West ‘By God’ Virginia, in the best of Virginia.”