CHARLESTON, W.Va. — The president of West Virginians for Life said Governor Earl Ray Tomblin can no longer call himself “pro-life” following his Friday veto of HB 4588, the Pain Capable Unborn Child Protection Act.
The bill the Legislature approved during the 2014 Regular Legislative Session would have banned abortions after 20 weeks into a pregnancy except in cases of medical emergencies. If the bill had become law, doctors performing such abortions could have faced criminal charges.
The veto, though, will likely not be the end of the matter.
On Monday, Dr. Wanda Franz with West Virginians for Life and other supporters of the legislation were looking into the possibility of a Special Session to give lawmakers the opportunity to either override the veto or even pass the bill again.
Franz said the issue is too important to wait until the 2015 Regular Legislative Session. “We’re definitely going to take action and it looks like a Special Session is the way to go,” she said on Monday’s MetroNews “Talkline.”
House Minority Leader Tim Armstead (R-Kanawha, 40) said, even if Gov. Tomblin refused to call a Special Session to address the bill, according to state law, he would have to do so if three-fifths of the members of both the state Senate and state House of Delegates requested it.
Armstead was reviewing the law, dealing with veto overrides, with other state leaders on Monday. “We think that there’s at least a strong possibility that there’s a legal remedy here that you can go in to a Special Session and override the veto,” said Armstead.
Such a move would require support from Democrats. “We just have to see what the level of distaste for this veto would be within the Democrat caucus,” said Armstead. “But I think there are certainly some who would feel compelled to go back in and override this veto.”
In a statement issued with his veto on Friday evening, Tomblin cited his pro-life legislative voting record before saying the following: “I am advised, by not only attorneys from the Legislature, but through my own legal team, that this bill is unconstitutional as shown by actions of the Supreme Court of the United States,” he said.
“The bill is also problematic because it unduly restricts the physician-patient relationship. All patients, particularly expectant mothers, require the best, most unfettered medical judgment and advice from their physicians regarding treatment options.”
Margaret Chapman Pomponio, executive director of West Virginia Free, said Tomblin did what he had to do.
“We’re happy that he listened to doctors when it seemed that many legislators would not,” she said. “I’m sure it wasn’t an easy decision, but it looks like he looked at the facts and that’s what he came up with.”
On Tuesday, West Virginians for Life will hold a press conference at the State Capitol to push for the Special Session. That night, a prayer vigil will be held at 8 p.m. outside of the Governor’s Mansion in Charleston.