Abortion battle Culture war front

If you want to see the culture war in progress each day, look at the 500 block of Washington Street W. near the railway tracks.

The Women’s Health Center of West Virginia has been located there more than 13 years, providing a wide array of medical care for girls and women. It’s one of only two places in West Virginia where desperate females can end pregnancies.

Last year, a religious group called Woman’s Choice bought the building next door and moved in — apparently to dissuade girls from visiting the adjoining medical clinic, or perhaps to confuse them into visiting the wrong place. The name seems to imply that the office supports women’s right to choose abortion — but the opposite is true.

Woman’s Choice, formerly Lifeline, has counselors trained by Heartbeat International, formerly called Alternatives to Abortion. It labels itself a “Christian association... consistent with Biblical principles.” The Bible doesn’t mention halting pregnancy, but this organization presumably assumes that the Bible forbids it. Heartbeat also pledges to “encourage chastity as a positive lifestyle choice.”

Last Sunday, Sharon Lewis, director of the Women’s Health Center, told a Charleston church group about many difficulties facing clinics that help girls end pregnancies. The era of “pro-life” murder seems to have faded, so less physical danger lurks for clinic workers. And mass church picketing rarely happens on West Washington Street.

But legislators regularly introduce about 70 new bills yearly designed to impede and intimidate the clinics, or to shame girls trying to halt unwanted pregnancies. Lewis described how her clinic must spend hours and days meticulously obeying all requirements of the state’s anti-choice laws.

She said West Virginia needs better sex education, to teach teens how to avoid becoming single mothers, or to avert the need for abortion.

While West Virginia has only two clinics that end pregnancies, it has 46 church-linked agencies where pregnant girls and women are pressured to shun abortion, reporter David Gutman found last year.

Currently, such agencies are in a legal battle in Maryland. In 2010, the Baltimore city council passed a requirement that they must provide pregnant girls with a city-approved statement saying women have a legal right to choose. But the groups refuse to deliver what they call an “abortion-friendly message.” Now this conflict is before courts.

This facet of the culture war clearly illustrates a difference between the Democratic and Republican parties. The Democratic national platform says the party “strongly and unequivocally supports Roe v. Wade and a woman’s right to make decisions regarding her pregnancy.” But the GOP platform says each “unborn child” deserves all legal protections of citizenship under the 14th Amendment, just like people after they’re born. Presumably, this applies even to fertilized eggs.

Thus the culture war continues, with no end in sight.

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