UPDATE: W.Va. House Passes Bill to Make Abortion Illegal after 20th Week of Pregnancy

By: The Associated Press Email
By: The Associated Press Email

UPDATE 2/26/14 @ 6:20 p.m.
CHARLESTON, W.Va. (WSAZ) -- When it comes to abortions, laws in the state of West Virginia have basically remained the same since 1973.

But now, a new bill known as the Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act is bringing new attention to a long-debated issue over abortions.

On Tuesday, the bill to ban abortions after the 20th week of pregnancy cleared the House 79-17. That's now giving supporters hope that it could actually become law.

"I think that clearly reflects the will of the people of West Virginia," John Carey, legislative coordinator for West Virginians for Life said. "The vast majority of West Virginian's are pro life."

Carey says the bill is critical for the entire state.

"This is a big move for the state of West Virginia to have their laws actually reflect the will of the people and actually begin protecting those babies," Carey said. "We not only allow abortions all nine months, we're one of six states that require the taxpayers fund it."

But critics like the group WV FREE worry the bill could actually restrict women's access to reproductive health care.

"We were very disappointed," Amy Weintraub said. "We believe that every woman has the ability and the right to make up her own mind on decisions that affect her health and her life."

Weintraub fears this proposed legislation does not take into consideration that each woman's pregnancy can be very different.

"To pass some general judgement that is going to be a one-sized fits all policy that will affect every single person without considering this woman who has this condition is just bad policy making," Weintraub said.

If passed, the bill would still allow women who have life-threatening complications to have abortions after 20 weeks. WV FREE says those are very rare in the state. They say fewer than 10 abortions past 20 weeks were done last year.

The bill is now in the hands of the West Virginia Senate. Carey admits he has not received any encouragement that it will clear the Senate.

If the bill does become law, anyone who performs an abortion after 20 weeks could be fined up to $5,000 and spend one to five years in jail.

ORIGINAL STORY 2/25/14 @ 9:20 p.m.
CHARLESTON, W.Va. (AP & WSAZ) -- Abortion in West Virginia would be illegal after 20 weeks of pregnancy under a bill passed by West Virginia's House of Delegates.

The House passed the measure 79-17 on Tuesday. It now moves to the Senate.

The action came the same day a House committee in South Carolina advanced a similar measure - one that would limit abortions to 19 weeks. Both bills resemble a law struck down in Arizona that the U.S. Supreme Court decided not to reconsider.

Members of WV FREE quickly responded to the House's action in West Virginia.

"Excessive and unnecessary restrictions on abortion care hurt not just women but the practice of medicine. Every pregnancy is different and we cannot presume to know all of the circumstances surrounding a personal, medical decision to have an abortion,” said Margaret Chapman Pomponio, executive director of WV FREE. "A woman and her physician should be trusted. It is a sad day in West Virginia when our political leaders are playing doctor."

According to the CDC, there were seven abortions after 20 weeks performed in West Virginia in 2010, the most recent year for whichever data is available.

Under the West Virginia bill, the late-term abortions would be illegal unless women had life-threatening complications or suffered permanent physical damage.

Anyone who performed an abortion after 20 weeks could be fined up to $5,000 and spend one to five years in a state correctional facility.

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