Pro-choice groups look to ‘people power’ at difficult moment

By Dan Heyman

The weekend’s Women’s March was bigger than organizers expected, and now West Virginia pro-choice advocates say they’ll be relying on “people power” to protect choice in a difficult political environment.

With Republicans in control in the White House, Congress and the state Legislature, a new report from NARAL Pro-Choice America said women’s reproductive rights are as tenuous as at any time since the Supreme Court’s Roe v. Wade decision was first handed down.

But in Saturday’s crowd of about 3,000 protesters – many more than were expected – Anduwyn Williams, director for reproductive health access at WV FREE, said they’re hoping popular pressure can keep lawmakers focused on the state’s serious economic problems.

“There are a lot of people here today that really care about things like women’s issues,” Williams said. “We are hopeful that we will get some legislators to stand with us, that this legislative session will focus on things like jobs, things like finances – things that really matter to West Virginians.”

Anti-abortion groups have said they will be using their new political influence to push through what they describe as a long-standing moral position.

Nationally, about seven in ten Americans support legal abortion, according to NARAL President Ilyse Hogue. She said the strong anti-abortion positions of many in President Trump’s administration could threaten those rights, but could also put the White House at odds with a majority of Americans.

“This new administration actually could be the straw that breaks the camel’s back,” Hogue said. “If there is a silver lining, I think it’s that so many Americans have woken up to the clear and present danger.”

Officials at Planned Parenthood have said they expect a major push to end federal funds for their organization. Alisa Clements, director of public affairs with Planned Parenthood in West Virginia, called that a threat to the 2.5 million Americans who receive a variety of healthcare services, including reproductive care, there.

“Women need it, and they’re still going to look for access for it, regardless of what the administration does,” Clements said. “And we’re going to fight to make sure that women and men in this state have access to healthcare. And that’s never going to stop.”

Clements said several allied groups, including Planned Parenthood, will put forward a “pro-family” agenda during the session, which will include healthcare proposals.

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