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The U.S. Supreme Court has let a Texas law stand that allows private citizens in the state to sue anyone who assists a pregnant woman in seeking an abortion in violation of a ban on abortions starting at just six weeks of pregnancy. Most people don’t know they’re pregnant by six weeks.

The justices refused to intervene, even as they are poised to rule on the constitutionality of a Mississippi law that bans abortion starting at 15 weeks gestation in their upcoming term.

In a scathing dissent, Justice Sonia Sotomayor wrote, “This is untenable. It cannot be the case that a State can evade federal judicial scrutiny by outsourcing the enforcement of unconstitutional laws to its citizenry. ... [The] Court has rewarded the State’s effort to delay federal review of a plainly unconstitutional statute, enacted in disregard of the Court’s precedents, through procedural entanglements of the State’s own creation. The Court should not be so content to ignore its constitutional obligations to protect not only the rights of women, but also the sanctity of its precedents and of the rule of law.”

Sotomayor ended her remarks by saying “I dissent,” as opposed to the more common “I respectfully dissent.”

In a recent Facebook post calling on West Virginia to follow the lead of Texas, state Republican delegates, including Joe Jeffries, Tony Paynter, Bryan Ward, Josh Holstein and Mark Dean, along with GOP state senators Randy Smith and Robert Karnes, voiced support.

The West Virginia Legislature already passed Senate Joint Resolution 12, which placed Amendment 1 to the state constitution on the ballot in 2018. The amendment states, “To amend the West Virginia Constitution to clarify that nothing in the Constitution of West Virginia secures or protects a right to abortion or requires the funding of abortion.” The amendment passed.

If the Roe v. Wade Supreme Court decision is overturned or gutted next term as part of the Supreme Court’s ruling on the Mississippi law, there is nothing protecting the right to an abortion in the state of West Virginia. If a bill similar or identical to the Texas bill becomes law, our state’s one abortion providing facility will no doubt be shut down that much sooner.

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There have been approximately 1,300 abortion restrictions passed across the country since the Roe. v. Wade ruling in 1973. Now, 48 years later, the zealots are coming for it all.

The same people we hear crying out the words “my body, my choice” daily, when it comes to being vaccinated against a deadly virus, long ago decided that it is not a pregnant woman’s choice whether or not to carry to term, no matter the circumstances.

These fanatics have decided that stripping pregnant women of their bodily autonomy and personal sovereignty from the moment of conception is justifiable because there exists potential life. Yet, they are also more than happy to risk sacrificing the actual lives of children younger than 12 who can’t be vaccinated and those with immunodeficiencies by refusing to vaccinate themselves, or even to wear masks or have their children do the same.

Chrissy Stroop, co-editor of a collection of personal essays by former conservative Christians, called “Empty the Pews: Stories of Leaving the Church,” wrote recently for a publication called “The Conversationalist” stating, “There is no way to effectively counter a threat to democracy without understanding the nature of the threat, and to look the other way and pretend that Christianity is always and inherently benign in fact enables the Christofascists by reinforcing Christian normativity and hegemony.”

Reading Stroop’s piece was the first time I encountered the term “Christofascist,” but it’s quite appropriate. So much of the misogyny and patriarchy inherent in the fights against abortion rights are inherently Christian.

I encourage you to support the amazing organization Holler Health Justice in West Virginia as much and as often as you can. I also encourage you to let your congressional representatives know that you want them to support the Women’s Health Protection Act of 2021 and that you want the act passed, even if it means abolishing the filibuster (something that desperately needs done, regardless).

The fight is on.

Eric Engle lives in Parkersburg.

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