MADISON - A pro-life vigil will take place on Aug. 15 on the Boone County Courthouse lawn from 7-8:30 p.m.
Organizers say they felt a need to organize county residents to show support for similar initiatives around the state of West Virginia.
"On a national and state level, there has been a lot of scrutiny on the push for keeping Roe v. Wade," said Boone County Republican Party member and organizer for the vigil Josh Barker. "If you spiritually believe in the Bible and the vast majority of people in the southern belt want to go to that abortion clinic (in Charleston) and protest, but we all work so that is hard for us to do. Many of us don't like to protest, but we are trying to not get this shoved in our face."
In June, the Charleston City Council voted 21-5 to approve restrictions on the act of approaching people as they enter health care facilities. The law forbids people from blocking an entrance or exit and states that protesters can't come within 8 feet of someone who is within 100 feet of a front-of-facility entrance to project a message or provide pamphlets without the person's consent.
The law was created after law enforcement received reports of protesters yelling at and blocking patients attempting to enter the Women's Health Center of West Virginia.
Barker, who is running for Boone County Commission (Eddie Hendricks' seat) in 2020, said the response for the vigil has been strong and multiple churches around the county have come forward offering support.
"I believe that we'll have a couple hundred people," Barker said. "I'd say we'll pack the lawn. I'm thankful for the support."
Among the list of speakers scheduled for the event is Wanda Franz, who is a West Virginia anti-abortion lobbyist and activist. She is president of the National Right to Life Committee and president of West Virginians for Life.
Barker said he wants to educate citizens.
"I just want to open eyes because, especially in Charleston, they are killing 20 to 30 babies every Wednesday and Thursday over there," he said.
Josh Holstein, 18, a Marshall University student and a member of the community of Ashford, said he plans to attend and show support.
"I think that having a pro-life vigil is great for Boone County because it is one thing that unites us in our area and this area is pro-life and coming together as a community to protect the unborn and coming together to see what we can do to make a difference is important."
Shannon Michael, 32, of Whitesville, is a direct care provider and a nursing student who said she believes the vigil is politically motivated.
"I believe it is a political maneuver to capture votes," Michael said. "Abortion rights have been used in this way for a long time. Abortion is polarizing because so many religions believe life begins at conception. So the right secures votes by opposing abortion, which is in line with their religious base."
She said she questioned the sincerity of the vigil.
"In my opinion, abortion is a non-issue because candidates should be focused on issues that affect all of their constituents," she added. "Such issues have to do with jobs, budget deficits, transportation, tax allocation and more. I wish voters could look past these polarizing issues and pick their candidates on issues of substance. All kinds of positive changes could be affected where it matters if we could stop bickering about things that don't."
Lee Dean will sing at the event. Bill Cook is the keynote speaker. Also scheduled to speak are Derek Evans, Wanda Franz and Monica Ballard Booth.
Reporter Phil Perry can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow him on Twitter