Anti-choice Republicans continued their crusade against reproductive freedom on Tuesday by sending a near-total ban on abortion to the desk of GOP West Virginia Gov. Jim Justice, who is expected to sign House Bill 302.
“Our state lawmakers have shamefully forced this despicable bill down our throats, behind closed doors in a matter of hours.”
While the governor called lawmakers to Charleston in July for his proposal to cut West Virginia’s personal income tax by 10%, “he added consideration of the state’s abortion laws moments after the session got underway,” noted WVNews.
The bill, which passed the state Senate and House of Delegates by huge margins, “bars abortion from implantation with narrow exceptions to save the pregnant person’s life or in cases of rape or incest so long as the victim reports the crime,” reported The Washington Post. “The exceptions for victims of rape or incest limit the procedure to before eight weeks of pregnancy, or 14 weeks for minor victims.”
“Doctors who violate the law may lose their medical licenses, but will not face criminal penalties. Anyone other than a licensed physician with hospital admitting privileges who performs an abortion faces felony charges and up to five years in prison,” the newspaper continued, added that patients who receive abortions don’t face any penalties.
According to Mountain State Spotlight: “The bill also limits where abortions can be provided, restricting them to medical facilities licensed by the state Office of Health Facility Licensure and Certification. That would end abortions at the state’s only elective abortion provider, the Women’s Health Center of West Virginia in Charleston.”
H.B. 302 comes in the wake of the U.S. Supreme Court overturning Roe v. Wade and was passed on the same day that U.S. Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) proposed a 15-week nationwide abortion ban, framing his legislation as a reason voters should support Republicans in the midterms that are now just eight weeks away.
Speaking to pro-choice activists after the votes, House Delegate Danielle Walker (D-51) said that abortion rights supporters are going to “strategize” and “mobilize.” Pointing to the November elections, she said that “we’re gonna stroll to the polls with confidence, knowing that democracy will exist in West Virginia.”
“We won’t go back!” Walker added on Twitter. “We will see y’all at the polls! Mountaineers, it’s time to fight for freedom. It’s time to be uncomfortable! It’s time to break silence! Register everyone to vote! Educate! Engage! Support candidate debates! Stroll to the polls!”
Campaigners opposed to the West Virginia measure and other GOP attacks on reproductive rights vowed to keep fighting—and urged state residents to pressure Justice to veto the rapidly passed bill.
“There is nothing more extreme than a law that strips people of the freedom to govern their own bodies, and our state lawmakers have shamefully forced this despicable bill down our throats, behind closed doors in a matter of hours,” said Alisa Clements, director of public affairs for Planned Parenthood South Atlantic.
“This cruel ban insults West Virginia doctors, endangering their patients’ lives while subjecting them to appalling government surveillance, and threatens to put other medical providers in prison simply for providing healthcare,” she declared. “To add salt to the wound, this bill will prevent many survivors of sexual assault from being able to obtain an abortion by subjecting them to mandatory and onerous reporting requirements to law enforcement.”
Clements warned that “abortion bans are deadly, and people will be denied lifesaving care as a result of this government-mandated trauma.”
Alexis McGill Johnson, president and CEO of Planned Parenthood Federation of America, similarly called out the state’s legislators for “shamefully” passing “an unpopular abortion ban that will have dangerous consequences.”
“Just hours after congressional Republicans introduced a national abortion ban, 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,” she said.
Research published in late June, just after the Roe reversal and as trigger bans began to take effect, found that outlawing abortion nationwide would increase maternal mortality in the United States by 24%.
West Virginia’s new ban, said McGill Johnson, “puts out-of-touch politicians who don’t even understand pregnancy in charge of people’s personal medical decisions.”
“We cannot and will not stand by as they manipulate the legislative process to vote away their constituents’ fundamental rights and plunge us deeper into a nationwide public health crisis,” she stressed. “West Virginians deserve better.”
If Justice signs H.B. 302, West Virginia will be the second state to enact a post-Roe ban, after Indiana last month. West Virginia was among the states with a pre-Roe ban, but a judge blocked that 19th-century law in July, meaning abortion has been legal until 20 weeks of pregnancy.
West Virginia is the home state of the key barrier to passing pro-abortion rights legislation at the federal level. U.S. Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) not only opposes abolishing the filibuster but also has twice joined with Republicans this year to block a House-approved bill that world codify Roe nationwide.