CHARLESTON, W.Va. — Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin is promising to again veto any fetal pain bill that would ban abortions in West Virginia after 20 weeks into a pregnancy.
“The governor is pro-life, has a pro-life record, always has been pro-life. But he’s also pragmatic and he doesn’t believe it’s proper to sign a bill that’s been ruled unconstitutional,” said Chris Stadelman, spokesperson for the Tomblin Administration, on Friday’s MetroNews “Talkline.”
In March, Tomblin vetoed the legislation the Legislature approved overwhelmingly and, in a statement Thursday, said he would do the same if the bill makes it back to his desk in the identical form.
Those with West Virginians for Life have been working to gather enough signatures from lawmakers on a petition that would force Tomblin to call a special session so lawmakers could pass the bill, send it to the governor and then stay in session to override the expected veto.
John Carey, a lobbyist with West Virginians for Life, said Thursday he needed four more signatures from House delegates to reach the required threshold.
While similar bans at 20 weeks have been overturned in other states, bans that take effect after 24 weeks into a pregnancy — what’s considered viability or when the fetus or unborn child could potentially survive outside of the womb — have withstood legal challenges.
“If it was moved from 20 to 24 weeks, it would be something that would be acceptable,” Tomblin told MetroNews earlier this week. He’s pledged to work with lawmakers on a different form of the bill, one that would pass constitutional muster, during next year’s regular legislative session.
According to Carey, though, the 20 week mark must not be moved because that’s when, he said, studies have shown a fetus or unborn child can feel pain.
House Speaker Tim Miley (D-Harrison, 48) supported Tomblin in a statement he released on Thursday.
“I understand there must be a great deal of disappointment by any special interest group when its bill is vetoed, but I am troubled by the demand that the Legislature be called back into a special session, at taxpayer expense, to revisit the very same legislation that appears to be legally flawed,” said Miley.
“Though I voted for this bill and am proud of my pro-life record, I don’t believe West Virginia taxpayers will understand why lawmakers would be so eager to quickly return to Charleston at great expense to attempt to pass legislation destined for a long legal battle and a very uncertain future.”
It costs an estimated $30,000 each day lawmakers are in a special session. A three-day long special session wrapped up earlier this week at the State Capitol.