The arguments continue under the state capitol dome in the final days of this legislative session over HB 4588. The Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act states that the unborn child feels pain at 20 weeks and therefore abortions should be prohibited beyond that point, unless there is a medical emergency.

However, the real epicenter for this debate is 350 miles away at the United States Supreme Court.

Over the last several years, the pro-life movement has used pain-capable laws in state legislatures to tackle abortion.  Their hope is to get the U.S. Supreme Court to reconsider aspects of Roe vs. Wade.

So far, the high court has not taken the bait.  Last January, the court declined to hear an appeal of a lower court decision that struck down Arizona’s law barring most abortions after 20 weeks.

Similar bans in Georgia and Idaho are still in the lower courts, and West Virginia is close to entering the fray, depending on the outcome of 4588.

The legislation passed the House overwhelmingly with bi-partisan support (79-17) and is now moving in the Senate.  Tuesday, the Senate Health Committee approved a substitute bill that keeps the 20 week threshold, but reduces the penalty for doctors who violate the law from a felony to a misdemeanor.

The bill next goes to the Senate Judiciary Committee where it faces a more uncertain future.  We got a hint of that yesterday when Senator Corey Palumbo, the pro-choice Democrat from Kanawha County who chairs the Judiciary Committee, tried and failed to extend the threshold to 24 weeks.

The Supreme Court has held that a woman’s right to an abortion extends until viability, the point at which the child is potentially able to live outside the womb. That’s generally accepted to be 24 weeks.

Abortions in West Virginia after 20 weeks are rare.  During the debate, the pro-choice side has argued that there were only seven last year and they occurred because of severe fetal abnormalities.

But this debate now under the capitol dome is less about those particular procedures than the larger abortion question.  If the pro-life side can establish a fetus feels pain at 20 weeks—and there’s considerable medical debate about that–then it follows naturally that the state has a responsibility to provide protection for the unborn.

That’s a question that many individuals struggle with and state legislatures will debate, but ultimately the U.S. Supreme Court will decide.


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  • Neal

    They aren't real humans.
    Society can't afford them.
    They would have a miserable life otherwise.

    While it may seem the above are reasons that abortion proponents give to keep abortion legal, these are actually reasons that slave owners gave to try to keep slavery legal.

    Just because abortion is currently constitutional doesn't make it a good thing. Slavery was deemed worthy enough to be constitutional in this country for many years. I'm glad we finally wized up and outlawed it. Hopefully one day we'll do the same to the abomination of abortion.

  • mab4life

    HB 4588 has nothing to do with viability. This is just a smokescreen to hide behind. The Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act simply protects unborn children from 20 weeks on from the excruciating pain of abortion because it's been proven that they DO feel pain at that point, perhaps even earlier. Check out Therefore the state has a compelling interest to protect them. Moving the pain threshold to 24 weeks ignores all those preborn children from 20-24 weeks who will will continue to suffer. Please do the right thing, legislators.

  • Don Smith

    It is alarming that we debate the political impact of our representatives' actions while some are pretending that the tiniest human beings are just "throw-aways." Activist courts notwithstanding, we should pray for the children and support those representatives who value their lives.

    • GregG

      And maybe some of us are sick and tired of our elected officials playing this endless game. The abortion issue could have been dealt with many, many years ago by using common sense. I myself do not believe that abortion should be used as a form of birth control. But in cases of rape, incest or medical issues I believe the decision should be that of the mother not some politician preying on the voting publics emotions in order to be elected or reelected.

  • Medman

    This bill has to be the perfect example of how politics is insane. Here we have a proposed bill which is clearly unconstitutional based on previous,solid case law, applies to only less than ten State citizens and will pass because our Legislators do not have the guts to do the right thing. Meanwhile I can find almost nothing in process to deal with the overwhelming economic issues that are plaguing the State's budget and future finances of WV. Talk about incompetence.

    • The bookman

      And these are the actions of politicians trying their best to retain their seat in government! The electorate is so uninformed as most of these will return following November's day of reckoning.

  • rick

    Seems like the pro-life folks are pretty willing to make decisons for everyone else. With todays technology doctors can see the whole body of the fetus. I just went through this with my newest grandson. You could see facial features and all fingers and toes. I am not so willing to force people to give birth to children that may soon die after birth and be forced by government to go through that. Or be forced to give lifetime care for a child that they die and leave on the mercy of the State to care for. These are the same people who decry welfare, daycare, medical care, etc for healthy children. No one likes abortion but the Government has no business in making decisions that should be made by doctors and patients.

  • Save the baby humans

    There are several inaccurate statements in the above editorial.
    First, the medical evidence is substantial and well-established that unborn babies over 20 weeks feel pain. This is not controversial, and is actually a conservative developmental date. The research is clear.
    Second, the Supreme Court decision of 1973 DOES NOT place any limits on abortion with regard to viability, but permits abortion up until birth. Only states who have passed laws to limit abortion can change that reality, and WV is one of only 9 states who have NO limits on when an abortion can be done.
    Third, the law out of Arizona was not the same as this bill. This bill is the same as 10 other states have passed, along with the US House of Representatives, in which all 3 of our WV delegates voted for it.
    In regards to these rare scenarios, doctors can NEVER BE SURE about these cases involving fetal and/or maternal problems, and there are numerous cases where a diagnosis is made, a woman resists pressure to abort, and the baby is born perfectly healthy. There is no way to diagnose/predict with complete accuracy what might happen to either the baby or the mother. The best option for both the baby and the physical and psychological health of the mother is to let NATURE take its course and intervene only if the life of the mother is in danger.

    In short, the opponents of this humane bill are grasping at straws to prevent it from becoming law because of their political and ideological agendas. As Hoppy correctly stated, the state has an obligation to protect these fellow human beings from a painful torture and death, and our society is judged by how we treat the least among us.
    Yes, this is politics, and those we elect should be representing the interests of their constituents. This is obviously an important issue to many West Virginians who are overwhelmingly pro-life.

  • Retired Charlie

    O Captain! my Captain! rise up and hear the bells;
    Rise up—for you the flag is flung—for you the bugle trills;


  • DWM

    Would agree with Captain, this may very well be grandstanding, but if they can get this bill passed the abortion debate is going in the right direction.

    Nearly laughed outloud with the pro choice people saying there were only 7 of these in the state.

    • FollowtheData

      DWM, the number of abortions in West Virginia after 20 weeks (7 in 2010) isn't up for debate. Any provider or facility that performs abortions is required by law to report those numbers to the CDC. Here's the link:

      Scroll all the way to Table 7 at the bottom.

      • Joe

        So we murdered 7 babies after 20 weeks. One (1) is too many

        • FollowtheData

          All abortions are reported, regardless of the reason (and reasons are not reported). So it's possible that all 7 were high-risk pregnancies that put the mother's health at risk, known as medically necessary abortions. It's also possible that they were due to fetal anomalies, or fetal conditions that could result in fetal or infant death. And it's entirely possible that some of them were simply elective, however abortion data shows that the vast majority of elective abortions occur before 12 weeks gestation. In other words, if a woman is considering abortion for non-medical reasons, she will generally have made her choice well before 20 weeks so the chance of those 7 being elective is actually pretty low.

        • GregG

          Well Joe, since you seem to know so much about the situation, please share with us your wealth of knowledge on this matter. I'm guessing you don't have a damn clue as to the reason for any of the 7.

        • Medman

          Joe, I am a not a pro choice person, but I find you statement over the top. Do you know how many of the seven babies were actually already deceased in the womb or totally unviable to live? You need to calm down and think about the real life possibilities before accusing anyone of murder, sir.

          • Leslie Palma

            There's a baby in Johnstown, Pa., who was determined to be "not viable" at 14 weeks. His parents would not abort. Doctors said he lived through the pregnancy, he would die right after he was born. He's going on three months old now. Doctors are desperately afraid of "wrongful birth" and "wrongful life" suits so recommend abortion at the first hint that a baby might be less than perfect.

      • Jason412

        I, too, appreciate that link.

        Sadly, with an issue like abortion, data and facts always take a backseat to emotions.

      • Hop'sHip

        Thank you for this reference. Much appreciated,

  • joeyjojo

    hoppy continues to compare WV's proposed 20 wk ban to the 24 wk threshold set by the supreme court 40 years ago. It's apples and oranges. They don't have the same starting point. The 24 wk threshold is marked from the time of the mothers last menstrual periord began. WV's proposed law specifies 20 wks from conception. i.e. WV's proposed law is 22 wks NOT 20 weeks if you're comparing it to the viability threshold in Roe v. Wade.

  • GregG

    I'll have to agree 100% with the Captain on this one. It's the some old thing over and over and over. God, guns, gays and abortion. I really don't know what is more sickening, the fact that the politicians use these issues again and again or the fact that the voting public is so ignorant that they fall for it time and time again.

    • The bookman


      I agree with you and Captain as well. These are divisive issues that are used to pander for certain voting blocks, and the sheep fall in line and give up their wool for nothing in return. If we had all of our major problems solved, I could see trying to tackle some of these other issues, and gain some common ground. But the resources we waste on such frivolous pursuits election after election is nothing short of stunning. The electorate better soon wake up, or they'll be nothing left for which to fight.

  • rick

    Once again this law is not needed. This is playing to the conservative base. Government has no place between the doctor and patient.

  • Big Bob-E

    And, Nero fiddled while Rome burned....

  • Pro-Choice Myself

    Hoppy, please stop with the nonsense that all pro-choice people are seemingly for late-term abortion, in this case, after 20 weeks.

    "Abortions in West Virginia after 20 weeks are rare. During the debate, the pro-choice side has argued that there were only seven last year and they occurred because of severe fetal abnormalities."--- Hoppy

  • CaptainQ

    Hoppy, I'm smart enough not to enter into the overall abortion debate but I will say this about the abortion bill rapidly moving through the legislature. My opinion is, this bill is motivated MORE by political grandstanding than by sincere concern for the unborn. Just like the larger teacher's pay raise bill, THIS bill looks more like a way to appeal to a specific group of voters ahead of this year's election season.

    We'd all like to believe our elected leaders are truly dedicated to those whom they're supposed to represent, but that's just a pipe dream, especially in THIS state! Our lawmakers in Charleston have two main concerns. First, how to benefit themselves from their position of power and second, how to get reelected so they can continue to receive those benefits of power. This bill seems more about 'looking good' to a section of the voting public than it is about the issue of abortion.

    Oh well, that's WV politics, the 'dog and pony show' so twisted it makes pretzels jealous.

    • Concerned

      Agreed. Just politicians being politicians. Waste of time. It is an argument that'll never be settled. Just something for politicians to talk about so they don't actually have to tackle important issues that actually have an effect on the majority of the population. These are idealistic fights, waste of time and money.

    • Harvey

      Captain Q,

      I seldom agree wholeheartedly with your many posts, but to this one I say a mighty "AMEN, BROTHER."

      • Debra

        Hey Captin, +1 times 3.