CHARLESTON, W.Va. –
West Virginia’s Legislature passed a sweeping ban on abortion with few exceptions on Tuesday, passing a bill that some members of the Republican majority said they hope will make the clinic The state’s only abortionist cannot continue to offer this procedure.
“It will close that abortion clinic, that I feel certain,” Republican Senator Robert Karnes said on the Senate floor, amid shouts from protesters standing outside the chamber door. “I believe it will save a lot of babies.”
By law, victims of rape and incest can have an abortion at eight weeks pregnant, but only if they report it to law enforcement first. Such victims who are minors will have up to 14 weeks to terminate the pregnancy and must report it to law enforcement or a doctor.
Rape and incest victims are required to report the assault within 48 hours of the abortion, and the patient must present a copy of the police report or notarized letter to the doctor prior to the procedure. art.
Abortion will also be allowed in the case of a medical emergency.
West Virginia joins the ranks of states moving to ban abortion following a decision by the US Supreme Court earlier this year to end constitutional privacy protections that protect abortion rights across the country. That leaves states deciding whether abortion should remain legal, which has sparked fierce debates at the state level, especially in Republican-controlled states, about when to apply the ban, whether exceptions should be made in cases involving rape, incest or the health of the woman giving birth, and how such exceptions should be made.
The West Virginia bill is currently making its way to the desk of Republican Governor Jim Justice, who has signed several anti-abortion bills into law since taking office in 2017. Lawmakers continue to debate the bill. legislation on Tuesday after failing to reach an agreement at the end of July, giving up the chance for the state to be the first to pass a new law restricting access to abortion since a U.S. Supreme Court ruling in June. June removed protected status as a constitutional right.
Both the Senate and the House of Representatives quickly passed the bill, after hours of debate. Dozens of protesters wearing pink shirts with the words “no taking of our bodies” and holding signs saying “abortion is health care” staged a rally in the Capitol rotunda while the Legislators are in session.
Some of the group sat in the gallery as lawmakers discussed the bills, with some shouting at lawmakers in frustration when they spoke in support of the bill. Legislative leaders asked viewers to remain silent as lawmakers conducted business. At one point, at least one protester was escorted out of the building by police.
Lawmakers have included a number of provisions that they say specifically target the West Virginia Women’s Health Center, the state’s first abortion clinic when it opened in 1976 in the wake of the Roe case. v. Wade landmark of the US Supreme Court. It has existed as the state’s sole abortion clinic for many years, making it a growing target of opponents and anti-abortion lawmakers.
The bill states that surgical abortions can only be performed in a state-licensed hospital by a physician with hospital privileges. Anyone else performing an abortion, including nurses and other medical professionals, could face three to 10 years in prison. A doctor who performs illegal abortions can lose his license to practice.
However, those who have had an illegal abortion would not face any form of prosecution under the bill.
Kaylen Barker, a spokeswoman for the West Virginia Center for Women’s Health, said the clinic will not close, even if staff members can no longer provide abortion services. Like many clinics that perform abortions, this facility does not offer daily procedures.
Most days are spent on services such as sex-affirming hormone therapy, HIV prevention and treatment, and routine gynecological care – cervical screening, cancer screening – primarily for patients with low income are on Medicaid with nowhere else to go.
Democratic Senator Owens Brown, West Virginia’s only black senator, spoke out against the bill before it passed the Senate. He said when he looked around at his legislators, he saw a body composed of white, middle-aged to elderly, middle-aged and older men.
Brown compared groups of men passing laws that had a strong impact on women to laws that were passed by white legislators when slavery was legal in America.
“It’s a bit absurd in many ways to be able to apply a law that will never apply to you,” he told his lawmakers. “It’s easy for you to sit there and do it because you’ll never have to face the consequences of your actions.”