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Gov. Jim Justice signs 'born alive' abortion bill

Abortion law / Source: Wolfgang Moroder / CC BY-SA 3.0
Abortion law / Source: Wolfgang Moroder / CC BY-SA 3.0
Published: Mar. 2, 2020 at 12:41 PM EST
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UPDATE (March 2):

West Virginia Gov. Jim Justice has signed a largely symbolic measure to penalize physicians who don't provide medical care to a child born after an abortion.

Justice ceremonially signed the The Born-Alive Abortion Survivors Protection Act Monday afternoon.

“This is an absolute no-brainer as far as I’m concerned,” Gov. Justice said. “I’ve said for a long time, even back before I took office as Governor, that I would support measures like this because every human life – born or unborn is precious and truly a gift from God.”

The bill easily passed both the GOP-held Senate and House of Delegates with supporters admitting that it's more about sending a political message than solving an ongoing problem.

It was introduced by Delegate Ruth Rowan (R-Hampshire) with several co-sponsors.

According to the bill, once a fetus is removed from the mother at any stage of development, and has a beating heart or umbilical cord pulse, it is considered alive.

The new law requires doctors to use the same medical judgment and efforts to care for a born-alive child that they would use for a child born at the same gestation in a non-abortion circumstance.

Currently in West Virginia, abortions are banned after 20 weeks, before the point at which a human can viably survive outside the womb, and many Democrats have pointed out that murder is already a crime in West Virginia.

“It’s unbelievable that we even have to go through this process for something that seems like it’s just common sense," Gov. Justice said at the bill's signing. "But, at the same time, we should be really proud that we’re defending the lives of our most vulnerable. To God above, that baby is worth it."

In debate in the House of Delegates, some Republicans conceded that the bill is more about sending a political message than solving an ongoing problem, especially since existing laws already protect newborns.

“A child born alive who would somehow be killed, that would be murder. It would clearly be murder, there's nobody doing that and if they do do it they're in jail,” said Harrison County Sen. Mike Romano, a Democrat, adding that the bill “isn't going to change anything.”

Violating the measure would result in discipline from the medical licensing board.

Elizabeth Nash, state policy analyst at the Guttmacher Institute, a research group that supports abortion rights, has said such proposals are often employed around election seasons to “gin up the base in some way.”

North Carolina's Democratic governor vetoed a similar bill last year because he said it was unnecessary.

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UPDATE (Feb. 10):

After acknowledging that murder is already a crime, the West Virginia Senate on Monday passed a bill to penalize physicians who don't provide medical care to a baby born after an abortion attempt.

Senators unanimously approved the measure following lone testimony from a Democrat who said lawmakers have wasted time angling for political points on a bill that has no impact instead of working on the state's more serious problems.

“A child born alive who would somehow be killed, that would be murder. It would clearly be murder, there's nobody doing that and if they do do it they're in jail,” said Harrison County Sen. Mike Romano, adding that the bill “isn't going to change anything.”

The bill, dubbed the Born-Alive Abortion Survivors Protection Act, subjects medical professionals to discipline from their licensing board if they do not care for a child born after an abortion procedure.

In a previous debate, some Republicans in the House of Delegates conceded that the bill is more about sending a political message than solving an ongoing problem, especially since existing laws already protect newborns and that the state bans abortions after 20 weeks. One Independent delegate has also noted that laws about providing medical care could change.

The House must approve minor amendments to the bill before it goes to the office of Gov. Jim Justice, whose spokesman didn't return a voicemail seeking comment on whether the Republican would sign it into law.

Elizabeth Nash, state policy analyst at the Guttmacher Institute, a research group that supports abortion rights, has said such proposals are often employed around election seasons to “gin up the base in some way.”

A similar measure was vetoed last year by North Carolina's Democratic governor, who said the proposal was unnecessary and that newborn babies are already protected by existing laws.

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Jan. 15, 2020

The West Virginia House of Delegates on Wednesday approved a bill that would penalize physicians who don't provide medical care to a baby born after an abortion attempt.

Lawmakers passed the bill 93-5 despite questions about what use it would serve since existing laws protect newborns and that the state bans abortions after 20 weeks.

“This bill does absolutely nothing,” said Del. John Doyle, a Democrat from Jefferson County. “It proposes to make something illegal that is already illegal.”

Some Republicans in the GOP-controlled chamber conceded that the bill, which would subject medical professionals to discipline from their licensing board, is more about sending a political message than solving an ongoing problem. Though one Independent cautioned that laws about providing medical care could change.

“Yeah, there might be laws that protect the life of newborns. That might change tomorrow,” said Del. S Marshall Wilson, an Independent who represents Berkeley County.

Elizabeth Nash, state policy analyst at the Guttmacher Institute, a research group that supports abortion rights, said such proposals don't have practical implications but are usually introduced by Republicans to “gin up the base in some way.”

“We are looking at probably more of a political issue being raised rather than something that's substantive,” she said.

Some Democrats noted that West Virginia's 2020 candidate filing period opened this week and predicted the bill, dubbed the Born-Alive Abortion Survivors Protection Act, will only function as the basis for attack ads against those who voted against it.

Del. Sammi Brown, a Democrat who was one of the few to oppose the proposal, questioned whether the bill had any medical justification.

“Are we going to be a body that is complicit to creating law based on political statements, propaganda, mistrust and medical fallacy? Is that the chamber we are?,” she asked.

The bill now moves to the Senate.

A similar measure was vetoed last year by North Carolina's Democratic governor, who said the proposal was unnecessary and that existing laws already protect newborns.

Copyright 2020 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.