Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin has vetoed a bill that would have banned abortion in West Virginia after 20 weeks.
Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin today issued the following statement regarding HB 4588, a measure that would have outlawed abortions after 20 weeks in West Virginia.
“I believe there is no greater gift of love than the gift of life. I have stated this time and again throughout my career and it is reflected in my legislative voting record. However, I have vetoed HB 4588 because I am advised, by not only attorneys from the legislature, but through my own legal team that this bill is unconstitutional.”
“The bill is also problematic because it unduly restricts the physician-patient relationship. All patients, particularly expectant mothers, require the best, most unfettered medical judgment and advice from their physicians regarding treatment options. The medical community has made it clear to me that the criminal penalties this bill imposes will impede that advice, and those options, to the detriment of the health and safety of expectant mothers.”
Under Roe v. Wade, abortion is legal up until the point of viability, which typically occurs around 24 weeks of pregnancy. Twenty-week bans, also often called “fetal pain bans,” since they’re based on the scientifically disputed theory that fetuses can feel pain after that point, seek to narrow that window. In other words, an effective method of gradually chipping away at women’s reproductive rights.
Abortion opponents have furthered this incremental strategy in states across the country, capitalizing on the emotional outrage about later abortion procedures to enact 20-week bans in nine states. West Virginia would have represented a particularly significant milestone in this push to limit abortion access. Had Tomblin not vetoed HB 4588, it would have been the first 20-week ban to become a law in a Democratic-controlled state, ultimately allowing the anti-choice community to construe this policy as moderate by pointing to bipartisan support for fetal pain restrictions.
But, as Tomblin indicated, these laws don’t always fare so well in the courts. Twenty-week bans have been blocked from taking effect in Idaho, Georgia and Arizona. In West Virginia specifically, the legislation was also unpopular with voters, who didn’t want their lawmakers to spend time focusing on passing more abortion restrictions.