Pro-life forces say legislative petition drive close; Tomblin promises another veto

CHARLESTON, W.Va. — A lobbyist for West Virginians for Life said Thursday on MetroNews Talkline he is four signatures away from forcing Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin to call a special session to deal with the fetal pain bill but the governor is promising to veto the bill again.

A seldom-used provision in the state constitution opens the door for a legislative-generated special session through the governor if 60 percent of members of the House of Delegates and state Senate sign a petition. Carey said he has 23 signatures in the Senate, more than enough, and 56 signatures in the House, where he needs 60.

“We planned on ending the effort on Tuesday but we’re just so close and we’re continuing the effort. We’ll continue it at least another week,” Carey said.

Gov. Tomblin vetoed the fetal pain bill earlier this year. It would prohibit abortions after 20 weeks. The governor said the bill had constitutional problems. Tomblin has said the bill would be more attractive to him if it called for a ban after 24 weeks. Carey said again Thursday there’s no room for compromise on the weeks because there’s scientific evidence an unborn child feels pain at 20 weeks.

Tomblin issued a statement Thursday afternoon promising another veto:

“As I stated on March 28, the language contained in House Bill 4588 is unconstitutional. I encourage legislators not to call themselves into a special session to revisit the same issue. Should members of the Legislature take the same action again, I will again veto the bill. As I also said on March 28, I am proud of my pro-life record, and I would be happy to work with members of the Legislature during the 2015 regular session to pass a bill that is constitutional.”

Carey said he believes he can get the other four signatures he needs in the House.

“I think we’ll get more than four or five that will actually say they would like to sign on. They just have to understand how important this really is to people,” he said.

All Republicans in the House have signed on to the petition with a handful of Democrats. Also all Republican senators and several Democrats.

Carey said he hopes the governor will see lawmakers want to do this through the petition process and will instead decide to call a special session on his own on the fetal pain bill. He said if a special session is held and the governor vetoes the bill again, lawmakers could recess for a month and come back in and override the veto. He said it could be done at little expense during already scheduled monthly interim committee meetings.

There also seems to be concern from the Tomblin administration about the cost of an extended court battle over the bill. Carey said it’s already legal in eight states and a court fight would be “worth the money.”

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