W.Va. joins list of states with abortion ban at 20 weeks

CHARLESTON, W.Va. — Abortions after 20 weeks into a pregnancy, in most cases, are now illegal in West Virginia. The Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act took effect on Tuesday, making the Mountain State one of nearly a dozen states with such a ban.

“I’m proud of our folks here in the state for passing this legislation because I think the people of the state want it,” Dr. Wanda Franz, president of West Virginians for Life, one of the leading supporters of the legislation, said on Wednesday’s MetroNews “Talkline.”

“This is very important legislation and a new step nationally for us in the pro-life movement.”

But Margaret Chapman Pomponio, executive director of West Virginia Free, a reproductive health, rights and justice organization, called it a “sad” day.

“It’s beyond politics. This is about healthcare for pregnant women. It’s a mean-spirited bill that is really going to hurt providers who bring life into this world and women who want nothing more than to be mothers,” she said of the legislation that deals with the kinds of abortions that are rare in West Virginia.

Six were performed in 2011, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The new law found wide support within the Legislature where supporters of it argued the state has a duty to protect an unborn child or fetus once that unborn child or fetus can feel pain, a time that, they argued, was at 20 weeks.

“The leading medical experts in this country and this state absolutely refute claims of fetal pain at 20 weeks,” Chapman Pomponio maintained. “It does seem that the ultimate goal is to test viability, to challenge Roe (v. Wade) and, when we’ve seen these bills be challenged in the courts, they have been blocked.”

Franz said the U.S. Supreme Court should ultimately take up the issue of fetal pain.

“I believe that the case can be made. I think that the science is there and I think that the compassion is there. People do not want these babies suffering,” she said.

“As long as they thought that we just had a bunch of tissue that was being removed, like a bad tooth, then people didn’t mind the idea of abortion,” Franz said. “But, if you’re thinking of real, human, living, sentient beings who feel pain the way we do, I don’t think the American public wants those children slaughtered that way.”

Earlier this year, both the state Senate and state House of Delegates voted to override Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin’s 2nd veto of the Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act in as many years. It was the first successful override of a governor’s veto in West Virginia since 1987.

Tomblin had said he believed banning abortions after 20 weeks was unconstitutional, though state Attorney General Patrick Morrisey has promised to defend the law — if it’s challenged in court.

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