CHARLESTON, W.Va. (AP) — A Charleston-area magistrate dismissed one charge and decided not to impose jail time for another Thursday in the case of a protester arrested for disrupting lawmakers as they convened at the West Virginia Capitol in September to pass a near-total abortion ban.
Rose Winland, a 52-year-old development manager for the ACLU of West Virginia, pleaded no contest on a misdemeanor charge of willful disruption of governmental processes and was handed down a $100 fine in Kanawha County Magistrate Court. Winland was also facing a misdemeanor for disorderly conduct, but that charge was dropped by Magistrate Pete Lopez.
Wearing a green shirt reading “PROTECT ABORTION” and one of a thousand green ribbons she made to give out to people in support of reproductive rights, Winland said she doesn’t regret yelling down at lawmakers as they prepared to pass West Virginia’s abortion ban. She was forcibly removed from the House gallery by Capitol Police while clinging to a handrail and shouting, “Our lives matter.”
“It was born out of passion and it was born out of anger,” said Winland, who is active in the abortion rights movement in West Virginia and is open about having an abortion herself. “They’re hurting people. The decisions they are making are going to make people’s lives worse, not better.”
The penalty was on the lower end of what Winland could have faced — a conviction for misdemeanor willful disruption of government processes in West Virginia can come with a jail sentence of up to six months or a fine of $100, or both.
The penalty for a misdemeanor disorderly conduct conviction ranges from 24 hours in jail to a fine of no more than $100.
Winland was one of two women arrested in connection with protests at the West Virginia state Capitol on Sept. 13, 2022. The bill passed by lawmakers that day — which bans abortion at all stages of pregnancy, with few exceptions — was signed into law Sept. 16 by Republican Gov. Jim Justice.
Lindsey Jacobs, a 38-year-old lawyer from Morgantown who runs advocacy programs for a nonprofit legal services organization, was also scheduled for a hearing in Kanawha County Magistrate Court on Thursday, but her court date was postponed because her lawyer is in the middle of an unrelated trial.
Jacobs faces three misdemeanor charges: obstructing an officer, willful disruption of governmental processes and disorderly conduct against “the peace and dignity of the state.”
A Capitol police officer wrote in a criminal complaint against Winland that she was “loud and boisterous” in the House of Delegates gallery overlooking the floor.
“Ms. Winland had stood up yelling and screaming and was asked to stop multiple times, she refused, becoming more aggressive,” the complaint reads. Winland refused to move as Capitol police officers tried to escort her from the gallery, grabbing onto a handrail as officers tried to pry her away.
Winland and Jacobs began shouting down at lawmakers after Republican Del. Margitta Mazzocchi began speaking in support of the bill.
House Speaker Roger Hanshaw, who was presiding over the floor session, asked people in the gallery to remain quiet while lawmakers conducted their business. As shouting continued, he asked security to remove protesters.
During her speech on the floor, Mazzocchi said “life begins at conception, and I am glad that we are able to save so many babies.” Winland began shouting “Our lives matter” repeatedly as Capitol police tried to remove her from the gallery. Other protesters sitting around her raised one hand above their hands clenched in fists to show solidarity as she was dragged from the chamber.
Capitol police initially let her go, but she was arrested at the state Capitol later that day.
Jacobs was removed from the House chamber’s gallery after Mazzocchi said people who want to protect against pregnancy can buy emergency contraceptives — known as “Plan B” pills — over the counter at pharmacies like Walgreens.
“Not if you’re poor,” Jacobs shouted down at lawmakers.
Jacobs said she became frustrated listening to Mazzocchi’s speech because she felt like the lawmaker was overlooking that the pills cost between $40 and $50, an amount she said is “cost prohibitive for a lot of people.”
“Don’t just sit there while they take away your rights,” she shouted as they dragged her out of the gallery.
Capitol police did not arrest her then and let her leave and walk downstairs, where she rejoined a group of protesters rallying outside the chamber doors for at least an hour, staying until the bill passed.
Jacobs was not arrested until 10 days later at her home in Morgantown — about 150 miles (241 kilometers) from Charleston.
Winland said she believes her actions should be protected by the First Amendment and she considered taking a bench trial. Ultimately, she decided that she didn’t want to face the risk of six months in jail and having to take time off from her job at the ACLU of WV, she said.