Abortion ban passes, but is it constitutional?

CHARLESTON, W.Va. — Governor Earl Ray Tomblin says the question about the constitutionality of the Pain Capable Unborn Child Protection Act will have to be addressed before he makes a decision on whether to sign into law the ban on abortions after 20 weeks into a pregnancy .

House Minority Leader Tim Armstead (R-Kanawha, 40) said he thinks there should be no question.  “I do think it is constitutional.  This is practically the same bill the U.S. House of Representatives has already passed,” said Armstead of the state bill.

Armstead said he thinks there is a “compelling state interest” to put a limitation on a woman’s right to have an abortion, protected by Roe v. Wade, because of the pain an unborn child or fetus could be feeling at 20 weeks in development.

Senator Erik Wells (D-Kanawha, 8) disagreed about the constitutionality question.

On Monday’s MetroNews “Talkline,” he said changing the threshold in the bill from 20 weeks to viability or 24 weeks, an amendment that was offered and defeated in the state Senate, would have better addressed the issue.

“When a lawmaker takes an oath, they put their hand on a Bible to swear to uphold the Constitution.  They don’t put their hand on the Constitution to swear to uphold the Bible,” said Wells.

“We need to realize the Constitution should always be coming first.”

The bill, which was approved on the final day of the 2014 Regular Legislative Session, does allow for exceptions for medical emergencies.  However, doctors who violated the ban could be charged with a misdemeanor crime and fined up to $4,000.

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