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03.10.14 - (PRESS RELEASE) The West Virginia Legislature passed HB 4588 this weekend, an unconstitutional ban on abortion at 20 weeks—a time when pregnant women are just learning the results of critical tests of the health of their pregnancy. The bill, which contains only an extremely narrow exception for medical emergencies and no exceptions for survivors of rape or incest, would place women’s health and lives at risk of great harm, and force some to carry to term pregnancies with severe, dangerous anomalies.
The bill now heads to Governor Tomblin’s desk. The Governor—who has already expressed concerns about the constitutionally of the bill—has fifteen days once the bill is on his desk to veto this harmful and unconstitutional legislation before it automatically becomes law without his signature.
Said Nancy Northup, president and CEO for the Center for Reproductive Rights:
“This bill is as callous as it is unconstitutional, intruding upon complicated and often very difficult personal and medical decisions that are rightfully made not by politicians, but by women in consultation with their families and the medical professionals they trust.
“Every pregnant woman faces her own unique circumstances and potential complications, and our constitution guarantees her the right to come to her own conclusions, free from interference by politicians who presume to know better.
“We strongly urge Governor Tomblin to veto this bill and send a strong statement to the politicians in the legislature that their attacks on women’s health and constitutional rights have no place in West Virginia.”
The U.S. Supreme Court has consistently held—first in Roe v. Wade and again in Planned Parenthood v. Casey—that states cannot ban abortion prior to viability. To that end, courts have blocked similar bans in Idaho and Georgia and in January the US Supreme Court refused to hear Arizona’s ban on abortion at 20 weeks, allowing a ruling from an appellate court striking the measure as unconstitutional to stand.
Harmful and unconstitutional bans like these further underscore the need for the recently-introduced federal Women's Health Protection Act—an historic piece of legislation designed to enforce and protect the rights of every woman to obtain a full range of safe and legal reproductive health care and decide for herself whether to continue or end a pregnancy, regardless of where she lives, within the framework of regulations and limits recognized in Roe v. Wade.