West Virginia Legislature passes abortion ban with few exceptions

House Bill 302, passed the state Senate in a 22-7 vote, and the House gave it final approval in a 77-17 vote. The bill, which would significantly curtail access to abortion in a state where it is currently legal up to 20 weeks post-fertilization, now goes to Republican Gov. Jim Justice’s desk for signature.

According to the engrossed draft of the bill, any physician or other licensed medical practitioner who intentionally or recklessly performs or induces an abortion in violation of the law could be subject to discipline, including losing their medical license.

Women who receive abortions will not face any penalties, according to the measure. It also allows some exceptions for victims of rape or incest as long as the incident is reported to law enforcement.

The measure was swiftly denounced by abortion rights advocates on Tuesday.

“After weeks of discussions behind closed doors, the West Virginia Legislature has voted to ban abortion. It’s impossible to overstate what a dark day this is for liberty and for the state,” The Atlantic Civil Liberties Union of West Virginia said in a tweet.
Alisa Clements, director of public affairs for Planned Parenthood South Atlantic, said in a statement that “there is nothing more extreme than a law that strips people of the freedom to govern their own bodies, and our state lawmakers have shamefully forced this despicable bill down our throats, behind closed doors in a matter of hours.”

Since July, abortion had been legal up to 20 weeks in West Virginia, after a state court judge indicated that she had decided to block a state abortion ban dating to the 1800s.

Legislation seeking to restrict access to the procedure in the state initially met headwinds during a special session in July when the Republican-led Legislature failed to come to a consensus. But the chamber on Tuesday joined Indiana lawmakers in having passed an abortion ban in the time since the US Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade, finding in late June that there was no longer a federal constitutional right to the procedure.
A separate effort last week in South Carolina to advance a near-total abortion ban stalled after a handful of Republican senators joined with Democrats to block the bill.

This story has been updated with additional details Tuesday.

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