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Tomblin vetoes fetal pain bill; override vote in House could come today

CHARLESTON, W.Va. — It will take a simple majority in both the state Senate and state House of Delegates to override Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin’s second veto of the Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act in as many years.

House Majority Whip John O’Neal IV (R-Raleigh, 28) said bill supporters have the needed votes. “We’ll make a motion on the floor to simply override the veto and take a vote to do so,” O’Neal said on Tuesday’s MetroNews “Talkline” of the next steps for the Legislature.

As proposed, the bill would ban abortions after 20 weeks into a pregnancy in West Virginia except in cases of medical emergencies.

A physician or other licensed medical practitioner who violates the proposed law would face discipline from the applicable licensure board, including the possibility of losing a professional license.

The votes for passage were 29-5 in the Senate on Feb. 25 and 82-12 in the House of Delegates on Feb. 11.

“We had a bill that actually made it through the entire legislative process, two committees on each side and the floors without any amendments, but still I guess the Governor received some advice that lead him to veto the bill,” O’Neal said of the bipartisan measure.

Gov. Tomblin released the following statement Tuesday morning about his veto:

“As reflected in my voting record during my time in the Legislature, I believe there is no greater gift of love than the gift of life. As governor, I must take into consideration a number of factors when reviewing legislation, including its constitutionality,” he wrote.

“At the start of the regular session, I urged members of the Legislature to consider a compromise that would help us establish legislation that would pass constitutional muster. Having received a substantially similar bill to the one vetoed last year on constitutional grounds, I must veto House Bill 2568.”

Members of West Virginia FREE, a reproductive health, rights and justice organization, applauded Gov. Tomblin’s decision.

“HB 2568 would have taken away a woman’s ability to make extremely personal reproductive health care decision,” said Margaret Chapman Pomponio, executive director of WV FREE.

“These decisions should be made by a woman in consultation with her provider, not by legislators. Politicians shouldn’t play doctor. The Governor made the right choice in vetoing this bill. We are heartened by his decision to place his trust in the women of West Virginia and the health care community.”

A simple majority is all it takes for an override vote when the Legislature is still in session, as is the case now. In cases when a budget bill or supplemental appropriation bill is vetoed, a two-thirds vote of the members of both the Senate and House is required to override a veto.

O’Neal said he’s confident the bill can withstand a court challenge.

“This bill, specifically with the language that we used, has not been declared unconstitutional anywhere and is actually in effect in excess of ten states in our country right now and is being considered in courts in two others,” he said.

West Virginia Attorney General Patrick Morrisey has pledged to defend the law in court.

“It is long past time that limits are placed on abortions in West Virginia. Currently West Virginia law does not limit how late an abortion can occur,” Morrisey said in a statement.

“While no one can predict with certainty how a court will rule, I believe that there are strong, good-faith arguments that this legislation is constitutional and should be upheld by the courts. If the Legislature overrides this veto and the law is challenged, I will defend it in court.”

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