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Abortion bill clears first committee in House

CHARLESTON, W.Va. — Abortions in West Virginia would be paid with Medicaid funds only if the life of the mother is in danger, according to a bill moving through the House of Delegates.

The bill would change the conditions from the current “medically-necessary.”

It defines medical services that would be eligible for Medicaid funding “but not including abortions, or induced miscarriages or premature births, unless in the opinion of a physician the procedures are necessary for the preservation of the life of the woman seeking the treatment or except in induced premature birth intended to produce a live viable child, and if the procedure is necessary for the health of the mother or her unborn child.”

The House Health and Human Resources Committee passed the bill Thursday afternoon. It now goes to House Judiciary.

Barbara Fleischauer

Delegate Barbara Fleischauer, D-Monongalia, said the bill should be stopped in its tracks.

“I recommend this bill be rejected,” Fleischauer told the health committee. “I think voters do not want us to be spending our time squabbling about these social issues. I’ve been here 22 years and every single year an effort is made to shame people and embarrass people about exercising their rights.

“Voters want us to be working on jobs and healthcare and educating our children, and they don’t want us punishing poor women.”

Cindy Frich

Her fellow Monongalia County delegate, Republican Cindy Frich, disputed that.

“It’s my belief that not many of us spent time squabbling on this bill and wasting time,” Frich said.

The committee actually only spent about 10 minutes talking about the bill.

During that time, Fleischauer raised a variety of questions about it.

She wanted to know how the key phrase “medical emergency” would be defined in the bill.

“What would have to happen?” Fleischauer asked. “It would result in her death?”

The counsel for the committee agreed with that description.

Fleischauer also wanted to know about the portion of the bill describing the procedure as necessary for the health of the mother or her unborn child.

She wondered if the mother’s psychological condition would be taken into consideration.

Counsel responded, “If a woman threatens to commit suicide that would not be considered in this case.”

Fleischauer then wondered, “This emergency — that does not include psychological or emotional. It would have to be an emergency that would cause death for a doctor to say that.”

Counsel agreed that’s the case.

Fleischauer then asked, “What about a risk to the fetus if a woman is on an opiate or some other drug that’s even worse — that wouldn’t be a medical emergency either, would it?”

Counsel agreed that it would not.

Finally, Fleischauer asked about instances of rape or incest.

“There’s nothing in here about rape and incest. So if a woman is low-income and has been raped by a family member and couldn’t find the funds, she would be forced to bear that child,” Fleischauer said.

Amy Summers

Delegate Amy Summers, R-Taylor, said that wouldn’t be the case if a woman had other means to pay for an abortion.

“This bill doesn’t prevent the woman from having the abortion in those described situations,” Summers said. “It just says there would have to be other funding, like a nonprofit. Is that correct?”

Fleischauer questioned whether there are many sources of such funding.

Delegate Mike Pushkin, D-Kanawha, offered an amendment to add instances of rape or incest to the bill. The amendment was rejected by the committee, though.

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