It is now illegal in almost all instances to get an abortion in West Virginia, as Gov. Jim Justice (R) said Friday he had signed the state’s near-total ban on the procedure into law, making West Virginia now the second state to enact a new abortion ban after the Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade.
Justice said Friday he had signed House Bill 302 into law, which took effect immediately upon his signature.
The bill prohibits all abortions except in the cases of nonmedically viable fetuses, ectopic pregnancies and medical emergencies, as well as rape and incest up to 14 weeks into a pregnancy.
HB 302 makes performing an abortion in violation of the law a felony punishable by between three and 10 years of prison time, and providers can be convicted of murder if the person getting the abortion dies as a result of the procedure.
Physicians can also lose their medical license if they violate the law, though the law does not impose any penalties on the people who get abortions.
The state legislature passed the ban this week after previously coming to an impasse on the legislation earlier in the summer, and the state’s only abortion clinic stopped performing the procedure on Wednesday in anticipation of the bill being signed into law.
West Virginia previously outlawed abortion right after Roe v. Wade was overturned, as the state’s ban from before Roe was decided went back into effect, but a state court then blocked that law, prompting lawmakers to consider new restrictions.
“I said from the beginning that if [West Virginia] legislators brought me a bill that protected life and included reasonable and logical exceptions I would sign it, and that’s what I did today,” Justice said Friday.
“This total abortion ban is devastating but unfortunately comes as no surprise,” Women’s Health Center of West Virginia, the state’s sole abortion clinic, said in a statement after the bill passed. “Inserting politicians into medical decisions that should be made between a patient and their clinician directly conflicts with our state motto of “Mountaineers are always free.”
West Virginia’s abortion ban comes one day after Indiana’s near-total ban on the procedure took effect on Thursday, which marked the first new abortion ban to be enacted after the Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade. Lawmakers have unexpectedly struggled to enact stringent abortion restrictions in the wake of the Supreme Court overturning Roe v. Wade, given the fact Americans are broadly in support of abortion remaining legal. Bills passed so far have maintained exemptions for rape and incest, and the debate over whether those should be included has divided Republicans, with some anti-abortion rights advocates believing bans with exceptions don’t go far enough while others won’t support bans without the carveouts. An effort to pass a near-total ban on abortion in South Carolina failed earlier this month after there wasn’t enough support among Republicans to pass a bill without rape and incest exemptions, and lawmakers ended up only strengthening the state’s existing six-week ban. Polling shows that even residents of states where abortion is banned largely oppose the procedure being outlawed, and some GOP candidates have backed down from strong anti-abortion rights positions in recent weeks ahead of the midterms.
West Virginia Passes Strict Abortion Ban (New York Times)