West Virginia lawmakers in the House of Delegates passed HB 302, which would protect most preborn children from abortion, during a special session Wednesday. The legislative session was called after a judge blocked an 1800s pro-life law from taking effect earlier this month.
HB 302 would outlaw abortion in nearly all cases, making the procedure a felony. The only exceptions would be for a “nonmedically viable fetus,” a medical emergency, or an ectopic pregnancy — though treatment for an ectopic pregnancy is not an abortion. While the bill originally did not include any exceptions for rape or incest, those measures were added prior to its passage in the House.
According to the bill, any physician who commits an abortion could face up to 10 years in prison. The bill explicitly states that the mother will not be penalized.
Governor Jim Justice added the abortion bill to the lawmakers’ agenda on Monday, asking them to “clarify and modernize the abortion-related laws currently existing as part of the West Virginia Code, to ensure a coherent, comprehensive framework governing abortions and attendant family services and support to expecting mothers to provide the citizens of this State more certainty in the application of such laws.”
“From the moment the Supreme Court announced their decision in Dobbs, I said that I would not hesitate to call a Special Session once I heard from our Legislative leaders that they had done their due diligence and were ready to act,” Justice said in a statement. “As I have said many times, I very proudly stand for life and I believe that every human life is a miracle worth protecting.”
According to the Associated Press, tensions were high throughout the debate on Wednesday, as the sounds of pro-abortion protestors could be heard outside. Yet Del. Brandon Steele noted that the protests didn’t phase him, saying, “What’s ringing in my ears is not the noise of the people here. It’s the cries of the unborn, tens of thousands of unborn children that are dead today. … Their blood screams from the ground today that you end this scar on our state, that you remove this curse from this land that was put upon us by a court so long ago.”
The bill will next head to the state Senate for consideration.
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