AP

WVa delays chance to pass 1st new bill since abortion ruling

Jul 28, 2022, 8:26 AM | Updated: Jul 29, 2022, 8:09 pm

Kayce Kean and other abortion rights demonstrators protest outside the Indiana Statehouse during th...

Kayce Kean and other abortion rights demonstrators protest outside the Indiana Statehouse during the ongoing special session Friday, July 29, 2022, in Indianapolis. (Jenna Watson/The Indianapolis Star via AP)

(Jenna Watson/The Indianapolis Star via AP)

CHARLESTON, W.Va. (AP) — West Virginia lawmakers passed up the chance Friday to become the first state to approve new legislation restricting access to abortions since the U.S. Supreme Court’s ruling last month removing its protected status as a constitutional right.

The Republican-dominated Senate adopted its version of a bill along with amendments, one of which removes criminal penalties for physicians who perform illegal abortions. That means the legislation heads back to the House of Delegates, which passed its bill Wednesday.

Several GOP-led states had “trigger” abortion bans in place in advance of the court ruling, but West Virginia lawmakers are taking action because of legal uncertainty over whether a ban from the 1800s that was upended by the 1973 Roe v. Wade decision could be enforced now.

As in other states dominated by socially conservative lawmakers, there’s not much question about whether abortion will be banned generally now that states have the power to do so — but whether the ban will apply to pregnancies caused by rape or incest.

In South Carolina, a ban without the exceptions has been introduced. In Arkansas, outgoing GOP Gov. Asa Hutchinson would prefer to add them to the ban that’s already in effect, but he has balked at asking lawmakers to address the issue in a special session.

The high-profile example of a 10-year-old rape victim in Ohio, a state without an exception for rape in its abortion restrictions, who traveled to Indiana for an abortion has amplified the debate.

Tension over the question gripped the Indiana Senate in a session that began Thursday and finally wrapped up after midnight. A final vote there is expected Saturday on the bill, which includes exceptions for rape and incest.

The West Virginia bill, which some lawmakers have complained was not vetted by any Senate committees, would ban abortions except in case of rape or incest.

The Senate approved an amendment sponsored by a physician, Kanawha County Republican Tom Takubo, that removes criminal penalties of three to 10 years upon conviction for any medical provider who performs an abortion.

Takubo said the bill already would subject a physician to the difficult loss of their license for performing an illegal abortion. He also said West Virginia already has problems retaining medical professionals, and if the criminal penalties are retained it could have a chilling effect on the practice.

Another approved amendment offered by Greenbrier County Democrat Stephen Baldwin would allow a minor to report a rape to someone covered as a “mandated reporter,” such as a pastor or school counselor, who would be required to report the case to authorities. The House version requires law enforcement to be directly contacted.

The measure allows exemptions for victims of rape and incest up to 14 weeks of pregnancy. The bill also provides other exceptions for an ectopic pregnancy, a “nonmedically viable fetus” or a medical emergency that could kill or cause a substantial and irreversible injury.

A dozen of the 34 senators gave impassioned speeches before the 21-10 vote. Three senators were absent. Some who said they supported the bill also indicated they weren’t happy with it. Some Republicans wanted a blanket ban on abortion. Others wanted the criminal penalties for physicians restored.

The state’s only abortion clinic initially stopped offering abortions after the latest ruling, but resumed this month as it mounted a court challenge on whether the old ban applied. On July 18, a Charleston judge barred the state from enforcing the ban, ruling it had been superseded by a slew of conflicting modern laws such as a ban on abortion after 20 weeks.

Republican Gov. Jim Justice called the special legislative session to consider an abortion ban. He didn’t indicate whether he would sign either bill, and the governor’s office didn’t immediately return an email Thursday requesting comment.

On Friday, people seated in the packed galleries above the Senate chamber shouted “shame on you” when the afternoon session went into recess almost as soon as it started.

When the debate finally began hours later, Democrats complained that they did not have a final version of the Senate’s bill prior to the start of Friday’s session that included a dozen amendments.

“This has been a slow-motion train wreck,” Senate Democratic leader Stephen Baldwin of Greenbrier County. “This bill would put doctors in jail for doing their job and for following their oath.”

In Indiana on Thursday, there was a nearly four-hour delay in a Senate session as lawmakers met privately to discuss the exceptions, which were ultimately left in over strong objections from some conservative lawmakers.

“Exceptions equal death for unborn innocent children,” said Sen. Mike Young, the Republican who filed an amendment that would only allow abortions to protect the life of the mother.

Eighteen Republicans ultimately joined 10 Democrats in voting to keep the rape and incest exceptions in the proposal. But the votes of many of the Republicans who voted for eliminating the exceptions will be needed for the bill to advance to the House. If not enough switch, it could keep abortion would remain legal in the state for now.

A final vote there is expected Saturday.

While legislative battles over abortion have begun, much of the fallout from the Supreme Court’s decision has played out in the court system. In Louisiana, enforcement began of a near-total ban but was halted by a judge earlier this month. On Friday, a judge ruled enforcement could resume — though it was not immediately clear when.

___

For AP’s full coverage of the Supreme Court ruling on abortion, go to https://apnews.com/hub/abortion.

___

Associated Press writers Sara Cline in Baton Rouge, Louisiana; Geoff Mulvihill in Cherry Hill, New Jersey, and Arleigh Rodgers in Indianapolis contributed to this report. Rodgers is a corps members for the Associated Press/Report for America Statehouse News Initiative. Report for America is a nonprofit national service program that places journalists in local newsrooms to report on undercovered issues.

Copyright © The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

AP

Photo: A delegate wears a hat with pins during the Republican National Convention Monday, July 15, ...

Christine Fernando, Steve People and Jill Colvin, The Associated Press

Rep. Walsh speaks for Washington as cheering GOP delegates nominate Trump for president

Cheering GOP delegates formally nominated Donald Trump for president at Monday's Republican National Convention kickoff.

1 day ago

Photo: Sen. J.D. Vance, R-Ohio, right, points toward Republican presidential candidate former Presi...

Jill Colvin, Julie Carr Smyth, Steve Peoples and Zeke Miller, The Associated Press

Trump picks Sen. JD Vance of Ohio, a once-fierce critic turned loyal ally, as his GOP running mate

Donald Trump named Sen. JD Vance of Ohio as his running mate, choosing a onetime critic who became a loyal ally.

2 days ago

trump assassination...

Ayanna Alexander, The Associated Press

What to know about Trump assassination attempt and the investigation into the shooting

Authorities want to know how a shooter was able to get on top of a roof so close to where former President Donald Trump was speaking and open fire.

2 days ago

Photo: Republican presidential candidate former President Donald Trump is surrounded by U.S. Secret...

Julie Carr Smyth, Jill Colvin, Colleen Long, Michael Balsamo, Eric Tucker and Michelle L. Price, The Associated Press

Trump heads to convention as authorities investigate motive, security in assassination attempt

Trump called for unity and resilience after an attempt on his life added fresh uncertainty to an already tumultuous presidential campaign.

2 days ago

Photo: President Joe Biden speaks from the Roosevelt Room of the White House in Washington, Sunday,...

Will Weissert and Zeke Miller, The Associated Press

In primetime address, Biden says country must not go down road of political violence

President Joe Biden says “we can’t, we must not go down” the road of political violence in America after the attempted Trump assassination.

2 days ago

Photo: President Joe Biden speaks at a news conference following the NATO Summit in Washington, Thu...

Zeke Miller, Seung Min Kim, Lisa Mascaro and Colleen Long, The Associated Press

Biden says during news conference he’s going to ‘complete the job’ despite calls to bow out

Biden used his highly anticipated news conference to deliver a defense of his policies and batted away questions about his ability to serve.

5 days ago

WVa delays chance to pass 1st new bill since abortion ruling