West Virginia Governor Vetoes Fetal Pain Bill, Claims It's Unconstitutional


Tuesday, April 1, 2014
March 31, 2014|9:45 am

The governor of West Virginia has vetoed a bill that would have outlawed most abortions after 20 weeks gestation, claiming the bill is unconstitutional.

Despite being passed with overwhelming bipartisan support from both houses of the state legislature, Governor Earl Ray Tomblin vetoed the bill late Friday.

In a statement issued Friday, Gov. Tomblin explained that he felt House Bill 4588 had problems regarding its constitutionality and how it affected healthcare.

"I am advised, by not only attorneys from the legislature, but through my own legal team that this bill is unconstitutional as shown by actions of the Supreme Court of the United States," stated Tomblin.

"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."

Earlier that same day, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit saida 20-week abortion ban in Texas is constitutional, and in Nov. the U.S. Supreme Court declined to stop that law from going into effect while the case was being debated in the courts.

Sponsored by Delegate David G. Perry and introduced in February, H.B. 4588 sought to provide legal protection for fetuses that could feel pain.

"The purpose of this bill is to protect unborn children who are capable of experiencing pain by prohibiting abortion after twenty weeks post-fertilization except when the mother has a medical emergency. The bill provides for civil and criminal remedies," read H.B. 4588's summary.

HB 4588 passed the House of Delegates in late February with 79 ayes, 17 nays, and 4 not voting. It passed the Senate amended in early March with 29 ayes and five nays. The House then passed the amended version on the same day in a vote of 83 ayes, 15 nays, and 2 not voting.

Margaret Chapman Pomponio, executive director of the pro-choice group West Virginia Free, said in a statement that she was pleased with the veto.

"We're encouraged that the governor listened to the medical community and the women of West Virginia," said Pomponio.

"Throughout the legislative session, doctors, nurses, their patients and patients' family repeated serious concerns with this bill ... but their voices were largely ignored."

Various pro-life groups denounced Tomblin's veto. West Virginians for Life President Wanda Franz stated that Tomblin "has placed himself in a minority position on this bill."

"We expect a groundswell of support leading up to the 2015 session," stated West Virginians for Life Legislative Coordinator John Carey. "Nothing the Governor has done has changed the fact there is a substantial body of scientific evidence that unborn babies from 20 weeks old feel pain."

Marjorie Dannenfelser, president of the national pro-life organization Susan B. Anthony List, said in a statement that the governor's actions were a "shame."

"Shame on Governor Tomblin for turning his back on unborn children and women by vetoing a compassionate, common sense limit passed with overwhelming bipartisan support," said Dannenfelser.