House Begins Discussion Over Abortion Bill

Feb 22, 2016

House Health Committee Chair, Del. Joe Ellington, R-Mercer County.
Credit Perry Bennett / West Virginia Legislative Photography

The House of Delegates is just beginning its work on a bill that would ban one of the nation’s most commonly used second-trimester abortion methods.

As approved in the Senate, Senate Bill 10 would ban what are commonly referred to as dismemberment abortions. That ban is only when the abortion is elective, not in cases of medical emergencies. Discussion over the bill began with a public hearing Monday morning.

Senate Bill 10 would ban what are medically known as dilation and evacuation abortions in West Virginia. While physicians say D&E abortions are common across the country, testimony given before the state Senate said those abortions is actually rare in West Virginia. Physicians also testified it is one of the safest abortion options.

But during a public hearing on the bill Monday morning, 5 people spoke in favor of banning the practice, calling the technique gruesome. 

Senate Bill 10 requires doctors performing these types of abortions euthanize the fetus before dismemberment. Delegate Joe Ellington is the House's Health Committee Chair, and he's also a practicing OBGYN.

“There’s pros and cons to both sides of it," Ellington said, "One part is terminating a fetus that’s alive before it is extracted by the procedure that the sponsors are trying to eliminate. It does affect the standard of care that’s currently in place with the medical profession. From an obstetrician’s standpoint, I’m going to have to balance that with what the proponents are willing to try to do.”

Members of the House Health Committee could take up Senate Bill 10 as soon as Tuesday.

Appalachia Health News is a project of West Virginia Public Broadcasting, with support from the Benedum Foundation.