The West Virginia legislature voted last week to override the governor and ban abortions beyond 20 weeks. The Republican-controlled legislature became one of 11 state legislatures that have banned abortion beyond this point of development.
Governor Earl Ray Tomblin vetoed the law last Tuesday citing constitutional concerns.
“As reflected in my voting record during my time in the Legislature, I believe there is no greater gift of love than the gift of life,” Tomblin said before vetoing the bill. “As governor, I must take into consideration a number of factors when reviewing legislation, including its constitutionality. At the start of the regular session, I urged members of the Legislature to consider a compromise that would help us establish legislation that would pass constitutional muster. Having received a substantially similar bill to the one vetoed last year on constitutional grounds, I must veto House Bill 2568.”
Many voters and legislators disagreed with the governor’s choice.
“He claims he’s pro-life, but vetoes this bill that would protect an unborn child,” said Melody Potter, Republican national committeewoman for West Virginia.
“[People are] outraged,” Potter said. “It’s overwhelming. You see what the people want because of senators and [representatives], and the governor is trying to override the will of the people.”
The bill received strong support in both chambers of the West Virginia legislature. “We had a bill that actually made it through the entire legislative process, two committees on each side and the floors without any amendments, but still I guess the Governor received some advice that [led] him to veto the bill,” said House Whip John O’Neal.
After the governor vetoed the bill, it passed the state House of Delegates 77-16 the following day. And on Friday, the state Senate voted 27-5 to pass the bill over the governor’s veto. The new law is set to take effect on May 26.
“Medical science provides substantial compelling evidence that unborn children flinch away from painful stimuli, that their stress hormones increase when they are subjected to anything painful, and that they require anesthesia for fetal surgery,” said Mary Spaulding Balch, director of state legislation for the National Right to Life Committee.
Balch added that states have a “compelling interest” to protect the unborn, especially when they can feel pain.
“The overwhelming override of the governor’s veto reflects the will of pro-life West Virginians who worked so hard to elect legislators who will stand for life,” said Karen Cross, political liaison for West Virginians for Life. “We are thankful that the legislature took up the mantle of protecting the most innocent and defenseless when we were failed by Governor Tomblin. Today, West Virginia is a safer place for pain-capable unborn children and a better place for all those who value human life.”
South Carolina and Wisconsin are in the process of passing similar pro-life legislation. Oregon legalized abortion in 1969, before Roe v. Wade, and is currently the only state that has no substantial restrictions on abortion. 8,283 abortions were reported in Oregon in 2013.