The West Virginia legislature approved a sweeping measure Tuesday that would allow abortion only in cases of medical emergencies, rape, and incest.
The bill (HB 302) passed in the state Senate, 22-7 and the state House, 77-17, and has been sent to the desk of Governor Jim Justice (R-WV).
In July, Justice included in his call to convene a special session of the state legislature the additional issue of West Virginia abortion laws.
The item asked state lawmakers:
To clarify and modernize the abortion-related laws currently existing as part of the West Virginia Code, to ensure a coherent, comprehensive framework governing abortions and attendant family services and support to expecting mothers to provide the citizens of this State more certainty in the application of such laws.
“From the moment the Supreme Court announced their decision in Dobbs, I said that I would not hesitate to call a Special Session once I heard from our Legislative leaders that they had done their due diligence and were ready to act,” the governor said in a statement. “As I have said many times, I very proudly stand for life and I believe that every human life is a miracle worth protecting.”
On June 24, the U.S. Supreme Court held in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization:
The Constitution does not confer a right to abortion; Roe and Casey are overruled; and the authority to regulate abortion is returned to the people and their elected representatives.
According to the legislation, victims of rape and incest would be eligible to obtain abortions at up to eight weeks of pregnancy if they report the attack first to law enforcement.
Minors who are victims of rape or incest could obtain an abortion up until 14 weeks of pregnancy after reporting the assault to either law enforcement or a physician.
Victims of rape and incest must report the assault within 48 hours prior to having an abortion. Patients in these circumstances must provide the abortion doctor a copy of a police report or a notarized letter before undergoing the procedure.
Abortions may also be performed in the event of a “medical emergency,” the bill states, or if the unborn baby is not medically viable.
The legislation also makes clear that miscarriage, stillbirth, and in vitro fertilization (IVF) are not considered to be an abortion.
The bill states, regarding penalties:
A person who performs an abortion or attempts to perform or induces an abortion in violation of this §16-2R-1 et seq. is guilty of a felony and, upon conviction thereof, shall be imprisoned in a state correctional facility for not less than 3 years and not more than 10 years.
Pregnant girls or women who seek abortions are not subject to criminal penalties, however.
Planned Parenthood, which profits from abortions, condemned the legislation, with CEO Alexis McGill Johnson asserting the West Virginia lawmakers who voted in favor of the bill “went against their constituents to shamefully pass an unpopular ban that will have dangerous consequences.”
“West Virginia lawmakers subverted the democratic process to ram through this extreme bill, and no amount of narrow exceptions make it any less cruel or harmful,” Johnson added.
Susan B. Anthony Pro-Life America celebrated the West Virginia legislature’s approval of the bill’s strong pro-life protections, including those that prevent discriminatory abortions for the purpose of sex or race selection, and those that prevent abortions chosen for a prenatal disability diagnosis.
“West Virginians have been committed to protecting unborn children and mothers from the horrors of abortion and now, in the Dobbs era, they have passed legislation to do just that,” said Caitlin Connors, southern regional director for SBA Pro-Life America.
HB 302 is a strong pro-life bill that will protect babies and ensure mothers can get the care they need in the heartbreaking situation of an ectopic pregnancy, miscarriage or medical emergency – just like every other state with pro-life protections in place. While the abortion industry ran to the courts to block West Virginia’s protections for life, the legislature has now made clear the will of the people in the Mountain State is with unborn babies and their moms.
“This law will save thousands of lives in West Virginia,” Connors said.
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Susan Berry, PhD, is national education editor at The Star News Network. Email tips to [email protected].
Photo “Jim Justice” by Jim Justice.