US: West Virginia lawmakers approve near-total abortion ban

Anyone who administers the procedure and is not a doctor or osteopath with hospital-admission privileges would be subject to prison time



Photo: Reuters
Photo: Reuters

By Reuters

Published: Wed 14 Sep 2022, 7:54 AM

On Tuesday, West Virginia lawmakers passed a sweeping abortion ban that prohibits the procedure — even in the earliest days of pregnancy — with limited exceptions, such as when the health of the mother is at risk.

The bill, which now goes to Governor Jim Justice for his signature, is the second abortion ban passed by the state after the deeply-conservative US Supreme Court overturned the 49-year-old Roe v Wade decision, that established a constitutional right to the procedure.

The measure, which Justice is expected to sign, comes as differences are beginning to emerge among Republicans over how strict to make abortion bans ahead of the November elections that will decide control of Congress.

The largely-conservative party has campaigned for years to limit abortion access. A resounding defeat of a ballot initiative that would have opened the door to a ban in deeply-conservative Kansas has led some Republicans to back away from the issue, to avoid alienating women voters.

In West Virginia, Republican lawmakers who dominated the legislature wrangled for weeks over how rigid to make the bill, ultimately shrinking the length of time adult sexual assault victims would have to seek care, but removing criminal penalties for doctors.

The measure passed on Tuesday outlaws abortion after an embryo has been implanted in a woman's uterus — usually within a few days of conception. Minors who are victims of sexual assault will have up to 14 weeks to terminate pregnancies, while adult victims will have only eight weeks to obtain an abortion.

Abortions that are allowed must be performed by physicians/osteopaths with hospital-admitting privileges. Providers could lose their licenses if the procedures they offer are deemed to be illegal.

Anyone who performs an abortion — who is not a doctor or osteopath with hospital-admission privileges — would be subject to prison time.

“This bill insults West Virginia doctors, questioning their expertise and putting their patients’ lives at risk while subjecting them to appalling government surveillance,” said Alisa Clements, director of public affairs for Planned Parenthood South Atlantic.

“No matter how many narrow exceptions are written into this dangerous bill, it will cause chaos in the healthcare system, and result in people being denied life-saving care, including survivors of sexual assault," she said.

State Senator Eric Tarr, a Republican, said he thought the bill should have outlawed abortion at conception, and not made exceptions for even victims of sexual assault, which he views as punishing a baby for the sins of its father.

Still, he said the bill would help the legislature achieve the goal of shutting down the state's only abortion clinic.

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