CHARLESTON, W.Va. — Senate President Jeff Kessler (D-Marshall, 2) said the fetal pain bill — banning abortions after 20 weeks into a pregnancy except in medical emergencies — cannot be ignored. Dealing with the legislation now, Kessler said, makes more sense.
“My concern is this, we are going to have this thing dominate the entire interim period and every month with people marching around the hallways of the Senate with petitions and the House and try to create division,” he said.
“We have a pro-life majority in leadership and I think we can get this issue addressed and put it behind us and move on to other topics that also need to be addressed.”
On Tuesday’s MetroNews “Talkline,” he said Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin should call a special session for the bill that, Kessler said, he would not have voted for originally if he thought it was unconstitutional.
However, Kessler does not support lawmakers calling themselves into session because he said that session would not be a special session with a narrow, defined focus.
“We’re down there with anything on the table. Any and everything that comes to whim of any legislator to introduce a bill and there we are — in a general session of the legislature,” Kessler said.
Supporters of the legislation, though, have said they’re close to meeting the threshold needed on a petition to force that session. Their argument is an unborn child or fetus can feel pain at 20 weeks in development and the state has a duty to protect that unborn child or fetus.
Last week, Tomblin issued a statement saying he would again veto the fetal pain bill if it’s approved for a second time in the same form. He says — as it’s written now — the bill is unconstitutional which is why he vetoed it back in March.
Tomblin has pledged to work with lawmakers on a different version of the bill during 2015 Regular Legislative Session.
House Speaker Tim Miley (D-Harrison, 48) voted for the bill the first time, but said, in his own statement, addressing the matter does not warrant a special session.
“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,” Miley said.
But Kessler argued the bill already has overwhelming support among legislators and just needs another chance to pass.
“We are going to have a pain capable bill. That’s a given,” he said. “You’ve got a pro-life governor, a pro-life speaker, a pro-life senate president and also pro-life majorities in both houses.”