CHARLESTON, W.Va. - About a dozen state lawmakers joined a conservative Christian advocacy group and others Monday morning in a call for more abortion regulations in West Virginia.
Jeremiah Dys, leader of the Family Policy Council of West Virginia, took to the Capitol rotunda to announce the start of the "Illuminate Campaign."
The evangelical nonprofit is committed to ending abortion, but Dys said the campaign is intended to educate the public about the "dangerous and secret work" of the "abortion industry."
"While good people may disagree at many points of the abortion debate, where there ought to be no debate is that so long as abortionists are permitted to ply their trade, they must do so in a manner that does as little harm as possible," Dys said.
Efforts in other states to increase abortion regulations have resulted in the closure or planned closure of many clinics.
Most recently, in Texas, lawmakers pushed through a measure requiring any facility offering abortions to meet the health and safety standards of ambulatory surgical centers, which have much larger patient rooms and more complex equipment. Several abortion providers there have said meeting the new requirements would cost millions of dollars.
Democrats and Republicans from the House and Senate stood in support of the council's campaign. Representatives from West Virginians for Life and the Catholic Diocese of Wheeling-Charleston also spoke in support of the call to action.
Delegate Ricky Moye, D-Raleigh, said he spoke on behalf of the "coalition of moderate Democrats." Senate Minority Leader Mike Hall, R-Putnam, said it's "unbelievable" there aren't more regulations.
"It's just beyond belief there are no regulations here," Hall said.
Moye cited information he received from the state Department of Health and Human Resources stating it doesn't regulate clinics that provide abortions. Dys focused on the same point too, saying tattoo parlors and veterinarian clinics are more regulated than abortion clinics.
Earlier this year a DHHR spokeswoman told the Daily Mail there is no state agency that specifically inspects or regulates clinics that perform abortions. The DHHR licenses hospitals and extended care units working with hospitals, the spokeswoman said. Individual boards for particular types of medicine license doctors, but don't routinely inspect clinics.
The lawmakers, policy council and supporters are pushing for the Legislature to consider studying or passing legislation that looks regulations of abortions in the state.
Other lawmakers in attendance include Delegates John O'Neil, R-Raleigh; Josh Nelson, R-Boone; David Walker, D-Clay; Gary Howell, R-Mineral; Peggy Smith, D-Lewis; Dana Lynch, D-Webster; Ron Walters, R-Kanawha; William Hartman, D-Randolph; and Sen. Dan Hall, D-Wyoming.
The campaign is the latest in a string of announcements from the policy council attacking abortion providers in the state.
Earlier this year Dys called on the governor to examine the industry, and he's one of several attorneys representing a woman suing a Charleston clinic that performs abortions.
The lawsuit is filed on behalf of Itai Gravely, 26, who alleges a doctor at the Women's Health Center was negligent and caused severe pain while conducting a 2012 abortion. Gravely alleges the doctor left "materials of conception" in her uterus, which were later removed at a hospital.