CHARLESTON, W.Va. — The House of Delegates debated the emotional subject of abortion for more than two hours Tuesday evening before approving a bill that would prohibit abortions following 20 weeks of pregnancy.
Discussion of the fetal pain bill, which passed 79-17, brought out personal stories, calls against the bill’s constitutionality and predictions of political backlash.
The bill provides for an exemption in case of medical emergencies but it also calls for prosecution of doctors who perform abortions following the 20-week mark.
“This is unconstitutional, it is,” Del. Don Perdue, D-Wayne, said. “On its face, its premise, the language, the law, it’s unconstitutional.”
Supporters said there’s medical evidence that unborn children at 20 weeks begin to feel pain.
“I will proudly see that vote as a vote to prevent unborn children from feeling pain,” House Minority Leader Tim Armstead, R-Kanawha, said.
Kanawha County Del. Meshea Poore made the move to have the House clerk to read the bill in its entirety. She later said in a nearly 40-minute floor speech that one thing the bill does is tell doctors they don’t matter anymore in West Virginia.
“We don’t care about your expertise. We don’t care about you going to school. We don’t care about you getting your different credits that you have to renew your license with, we’re saying to you that if you make this decision for any one of your patients we’re going to put you in jail,” Poore said.
The House may not have taken up the bill this year had it not been for a move by Republicans during pro-life day to bring the bill to the floor for a vote. Some Democrats, who are pro-life and who voted against the move that day were criticized by pro-life groups. The bill then quickly began moving through the committee process.
None of the bill’s sponsors spoke in favor of the bill Tuesday evening.
The bill now goes to the state Senate for consideration.