Jul 29, 2022 - Health

West Virginia lawmakers close to passing near-total abortion ban

Picture of people protesting in support of abortion rights

Photo: Yasin Ozturk/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images

The West Virginia state Senate on Friday passed a bill to ban nearly all abortions in the state.

The big picture: West Virginia has always been considered a state hostile to abortion because it's one of the four states to amend its constitution to prohibit any protections for abortion rights from being established.

  • The state also has a pre-Roe abortion ban on its books that prompted the state's only abortion clinic to stop providing the procedure after the Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade.
  • Earlier this month, the pre-Roe ban was temporarily blocked.

What's next: The West Virginia state House already passed the bill, but since the Senate amended it, the legislation has to go back to the first chamber for final approval.

  • The bill would take effect immediately after receiving final approval from both legislative chambers.

Details: The bill, H.B. 302, makes abortions illegal except when there is an ectopic pregnancy, if there is a "nonmedically viable fetus" or if there's a medical emergency.

  • An abortion provider who violates the law would face up to 10 years in prison.
  • The bill also says that an abortion can be performed up until the 14th week of pregnancy if the pregnancy is a result of rape or incest that has been reported to a "qualified law enforcement officer."

Zoom in: The bill also creates additional restrictions for minors seeking an abortion.

  • A health provider cannot perform an abortion on a person under the age of 18 unless a guardian has been notified, and they must allow 48 hours to pass before performing the procedure.
  • Abortion rights advocates say that young people's lives are "at risk" because this provision makes it difficult for them to access abortion care if there is an emergency.

State of play: The legislature passed the bill during a special session that Gov. Jim Justice (R) had initially convened to look at tax-related legislation.

  • Justice on Monday amended his call for the special session to say that the legislature would also be considering abortion-related legislation. Just two days later, the state House passed the near-total ban.
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