Women and Gender Center plans for future following Amendment 1 passing

Marshall University’s Women and Gender Center, in addition to Herd Free, plan to raise awareness about abortion and reproductive healthcare following the ruling on Amendment 1.

The state amendment, which passed during the midterm election, removes state wide protections for abortions if Roe v. Wade were to be overturned nationally.

“Roe v. Wade is still the law of the land, so those protections are still put in place,” Claire Snyder, program coordinator for the Women and Gender Center, said. “Abortion is still legal nationwide. The concern is that should federal protections go away, our state wouldn’t have further protections beyond that.”

Following the ruling, Snyder said she felt scared and frustrated because of the potential obstacles the amendment could create for women seeking an abortion.

“I’m concerned that this might create barriers to women receiving the medical care they need,” Snyder said. “Even some of the misinformation and confusion around this amendment might make women think they don’t have access to care when they certainly do. There has been a lot of confusion about whether this amendment has made abortion illegal in the state of West Virginia, whether the funding is gone or how everything works. For us, it’s really important that women and students understand that they have out support.”

In addition to the Women and Gender Center, Herd Free, Marshall’s student branch of WV Free, will also be providing resources to students. Christina MacIver, a junior psychology major and member of Herd Free, said Amendment 1 has inspired her to continue sharing education about women’s healthcare.

“Coming from a conservative state, I’m disappointed but not surprised,” MacIver said. “Although I am discouraged, this has made the spark that was in me turn into a bigger fire. I’m more passionate and motivated now because I know that the votes were so close. That gives me hope.”

Leading up to the election, Herd Free collaborated with WV Free and the Vote No on 1 Coalition to sponsor a phone banking event. Overall, students were able to call 5000 West Virginians to start discussions and share information about the amendment.

“When you’re calling on issues such as Amendment 1 and abortion to rural West Virginians it can get scary,” Bailey Saville, a junior history major and member of Herd Free, said. “At times it was very empowering, especially when you would call an older gentleman who was against the amendment. That was one of the best feelings.”

During election day, the ruling of Amendment 1 passed with 51.7 percent of voters being for the amendment compared to the 48.3 percent of voters who were opposed to it.

Snyder said although this was not the ruling she was expecting, it is important for women in West Virginia to understand the access that is still available to them.

“Regardless of this amendment, currently the full range of reproductive and pregnancy options are available to [women] and there are resources that can help them access that care whether or not they have the financial resources or insurance to pay for them,” Snyder said.

For now, Snyder said the Women and Gender Center will be working to help educate females on campus and in the community.

“The obstacle with this amendment is that there isn’t a lot of understanding,” Snyder said. “Our West Virginia state constitution provides greater protections for personal safety than our federal construction does. This amendment says that the right to safety doesn’t extend to abortion access. In the future, were there to be future bills that further restrict access, we don’t have the state constitution protections to argue against those.”

For those who may be nervous about the ruling, Snyder said being politically active is more important than ever.

“This doesn’t mean that all legislators are automatically going to vote for restrictions so that’s why it’s more important than ever that constituents are contacting their legislators and having their voice be heard,” Snyder said.

Looking to the future, MacIver said she is determined to continue helping women.

“I’m still hopeful,” MacIver said. “I saw a lot of younger people out at the polls voicing their opinions as a citizen. That’s reassuring and gives me hope.”

For now, Herd Free is focusing their attention on raising awareness about fake reproductive health clinics and birth control. They’re also planning to attend Lobby Day at the West Virginia state legislature in the spring.

Joelle Gates can be contacted at [email protected].