CHARLESTON, W.Va. — The bill that would ban abortions after 20 weeks passed its first state Senate committee Tuesday on a voice vote.
The Senate Health Committee made a few changes to the fetal pain bill including reducing criminal charges against doctors who perform abortions after 20 weeks from a felony to a misdemeanor. The bill passed by the House of Delegates included the felony provision.
“I’m concerned about the emergency room doctor, an obstetrician is called down to consult on a case, a woman with belly pain or something like that, and that their clinical decision would be based on medicine and not on fear of being a felon,” Health Committee Chair Ron Stollings, D-Boone, said.
Sen. Bob Plymale, D-Wayne, also questioned the felony provision.
“I don’t ever understand why it was first proposed as a felony. That’s the first question I have,” Plymale said.
Sen. Corey Palumbo, D-Kanawha, attempted to amend the bill to move the 20-week deadline to 24-weeks.
“This would bring us in line with the vast majority of the states who have adopted legislation like this and to essentially ensure the constitutionality of this bill and that the courts would uphold it,” Palumbo said.
The committee defeated the proposed amendment on a voice vote.
Even though the bill passed, Sen. Stollings said there are some questions about whether it’s legal to ban abortions at 20 weeks.
“You don’t want to pass a bill that you pretty much know that’s already been determined unconstitutional and we’ve tried to get folks on the Right to Life side to budge but they are entrenched,” Stollings said.
The bill next goes to Senate Judiciary Committee which is chaired by Sen. Palumbo.