West Virginia lawmakers passed a near-total abortion ban on Tuesday, allowing exceptions for medical emergencies, rape, and incest.
Under the measure sent to Gov. Jim Justice (R), cases of rape and incest would have to be reported to law enforcement, including cases involving children, before an abortion may be performed. A police report filed by a doctor treating a child for sexual assault would satisfy the requirement.
A doctor who performs an illegal abortion would face the loss of their medical licenses, but no criminal penalties, under the legislation (H.B. 302).
Abortions in cases of rape or incest would have to be performed within eight weeks, or within 14 weeks in instances involving children. Anyone who isn’t a licensed medical professional who performs an abortion would face felony charges.
Lawmakers sought the legislation to bring state law in line with a ban from the 1800s that was blocked by a judge in July.
The 150-year-old law criminalizing abortion had been unenforceable after the US Supreme Court’s Roe v. Wade decision in 1973.
Only one abortion clinic has been operating under West Virginia’s 20-week abortion ban, implemented after the Roe decision. West Virginia voters approved a 2018 constitutional amendment stating nothing in the state Constitution “secures or protects a right to abortion or requires the funding of abortion.”
Some Republican lawmakers said Tuesday’s bill didn’t go far enough to restrict abortion.
“I’m going to vote for this today, not as an overwhelming cheer that this is the greatest thing we possibly could have done, because it’s not,” Sen. Robert Karnes (R) said on his chamber’s floor. “But it is going to shut down that abortion clinic, of that I am certain.”
The state House passed the bill 77 to 17, after a Senate vote of 22 to 7, with five absent.
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