Proposed bill outlaws abortions in W.Va. with exceptions

Published: Jul. 25, 2022 at 10:54 PM EDT
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CHARLESTON, W.Va. (WSAZ) - It was originally supposed to be a special legislative session Monday for West Virginia lawmakers to deal with personal income tax.

Gov. Jim Justice called on lawmakers to clarify, modernize and specify abortion laws in West Virginia

During a special session to reduce West Virginia’s personal income tax, lawmakers introduced a bill to the House Health Committee making abortion illegal.

The bill, sponsored by Del. Dean Jeffries a Republican from Kanawha County, has the support of Republican House Health Chair Del. Mathew Rohrbach.

“I supported the bill, yes, and we ran it through our committee. The committee process worked, and we have got a bill for the committee on the judiciary to consider,” Rohrbach said.

House Bill 302 would make abortion illegal including in cases on rape or incest of an adult or minor.

There are some exceptions:

- A nonmedically viable fetus, or a fetus that could not live outside the womb.

- An ectopic pregnancy, or a fetus that that develops outside of a uterus

- A medical emergency, or a risk of death of serious bodily harm to the person carrying the fetus.

Del. Danielle Walker, a Democrat from Monongalia County, does not support the bill.

“What you have seen is absolutely not democratic and taken away the freedoms of patients who can be pregnant,” said Del. Walker. ‘By not allowing any exceptions, by not doing away with that archaic code that is going to criminalize people and criminalize professionals.”

Those penalties Del. Walker was talking about would affect only the medical care provider that induces or performs an illegal abortion.

A physician or licensed medical care provider would face felony charges of three to 10 years in prison and they could lose their license to practice.

Under the bill, there are no penalties for a person who has an abortion.

Del. Rohrbach says the bill also defined and clarified a long list of medical terms, after a decision in the Kanawha County Circuit Court deemed the previous W.Va. abortion laws, some of which date back to the 1800s, as too vague.

“It also clarifies what is contraception the morning after pill it is contraception so it is not considered an abortion,” said Del. Rohrbach.

Del. Walker said this bill is personal for her.

“I am Delegate Danielle Walker. Yes, I am a mother, rape survivor, sexual assault survivor, and I am also an abortion patient. That is something I can speak to that some of my colleagues cannot,” she said. “I chose my journey and to know that patients will not have that choice except for three exceptions is beyond me. We can do better than this ,West Virginia.”

The bill will now go to the House Judiciary Committee on Tuesday. A public hearing will be held at 9 a.m. Wednesday, and then the bill would come to the House floor for a vote. If it is passed, the bill would head to the Senate.

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