A 12-year-old girl shamed Republican politicians in West Virginia during an emotional speech to policymakers as the state considers a draconian abortion ban.
“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,” Addison Gardner said during a public hearing Wednesday. “If a man decides that I’m an object, and does unspeakable and tragic things to me, am I, a child, supposed to carry and birth another child?”
“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 continued. “Some here say they are pro-life. What about my life? Gardner said, as people in the audience cheered her on.
“Does my life not matter to you?” Gardner said.
Gardner was the youngest participant during the public hearing. Each person had only 45 seconds to speak.
The bill, HB 302, passed in a sweeping 69-23 vote in the state’s majority Republican House on Wednesday. Now, the state Senate will consider the legislation, which would effectively ban all abortions except for those due to rare medical events, including non-medically viable fetuses, ectopic pregnancies, or a medical emergency.
Abortion providers who break the law, according to the bill, could face between three and 10 years in jail. The legislation could pass as early as this week and comes after West Virginia Republican Gov. Jim Justice asked lawmakers to “clarify and modernize” the state’s abortion laws to reflect the end of Roe v. Wade.
Hours after Gardner’s speech, a last-minute amendment proposed by Republican delegate John Hardy was approved. It allows abortions following rape or incest if strict conditions are met, including an incident report to law enforcement and if the gestation period of the fetus hasn’t exceeded 14 weeks.
Democrats have tried to amend the bill to include broader rape and incest exceptions, and to remove criminal penalties for abortion providers. But the amendments have failed.
Republican Del. Pat McGeehan, a father of a girl, voted on Tuesday against a sweeping rape and incest exception.
“Men perpetrating such horrific acts makes me unsettled at times,” McGeehan told the Associated Press. “It’s very disturbing, and these are contentious questions we have to deal with. However, when we confront such evil, we cannot participate in evil itself.”
“An innocent life is still an innocent life, regardless of the evil act. We have to have moral absolutism. The real question here is: Is it ever just to punish an innocent person for a crime committed by someone else? My answer is absolutely not,” McGeehan said.
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