WV House passes 'born alive' abortion bill despite questions

Abortion law / Source: Wolfgang Moroder / CC BY-SA 3.0
Abortion law / Source: Wolfgang Moroder / CC BY-SA 3.0
Published: Jan. 15, 2020 at 2:45 PM EST
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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.

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