The West Virginia Legislature has overwhelmingly approved a bill outlawing abortions, except in rare cases. Governor Justice is expected to sign the bill into law—unless there is a technical problem with the bill—and it will become effective immediately.
The bill only allows for abortions to save the life of the mother in a medical emergency, and only permits abortions in cases of rape and incest if reporting procedures are followed.
As they say, elections have consequences.
Republicans have been gaining ground in the Legislature for the last decade and they now have supermajorities in the House and Senate. Republicans are historically pro-life, and most GOP members of the Legislature are backed by the West Virginians for Life Political Action Committee.
Therefore, it is no surprise the Republicans followed up on what they have been telling their constituents they were going to do.
The Republicans stumbled badly on the issue during the July Special Session and failed to agree on an abortion bill, but they apparently spent time between then and yesterday coalescing around something they knew could pass.
The bill represents a compromise for the Republicans who were split on the issue of whether to allow any exceptions and whether to threaten doctors who preform an illegal abortion with prison.
I have not mentioned the Democrats role in the crafting of the bill yet, and that’s because they had none. They argued passionately during floor debates against the bill or for modifications, but they do not have the votes to make a difference.
Democrats also protested that Republicans bypassed the committee process; they did and that is a valid complaint. Republicans made the same argument when Democrats were in the control and ramming bills through. However, the outcome would have been the same.
The issue was always whether disparate Republicans could come to an agreement.
The question now is how will voters respond? A recent West Virginia Chamber of Commerce Poll found that 51 percent of adult voters are pro-life, and 45 percent are pro-choice. That suggests the populace is not as strongly pro-life as the legislature.
The poll also found that 86 percent of Democrats are pro-choice and only 12 percent pro-life. Among Independents, 50 percent are pro-choice, and 45 percent are pro-life. Will those pro-choice voters be angry enough and sufficiently motivated to kick some of the Republican lawmakers out of office?
That is a heavy lift given the expanding Republican advantage in registration and their overall political influence in the state.
Abortion is, and will continue to be, a highly personal and emotional issue, rooted in deeply held beliefs about when life begins, protecting the unborn, women’s rights and the sanctity of the relationship between a woman and her doctor.
Nothing about this bill resolves any of those debates, but it does fulfill a long-promised pledge by Republicans.