Ashton Marra Published

Advocacy Groups Say Abortion Bill Still Unconstitutional

Two West Virginia advocacy groups gathered outside the House of Delegates Thursday to protest a bill they say is unconstitutional. Lawmakers in the chamber have re-introduced the 20 week Pain Capable Unborn Child Protection Act, this year with additional provisions.

The Pain Capable Unborn Child Protection Act makes it illegal for a medical professional in the state to conduct an abortion after 20 weeks except with the woman has a medical emergency.

It also sets up civil and criminal penalties for doctors who do not comply with the ban.

The bill was passed by both the House and Senate during the 2014 legislative session, but vetoed by the governor because he questioned its legal standing.

“It takes healthcare decision making out of the hands of women and their trusted providers and puts it into the hands of government,” Margaret Chapman Pomponio, executive director of West Virginia Freedom for Reproductive Education and Equality or West Virginia FREE, said before the demonstration.

“The legislature frankly isn’t in a position, they don’t have the knowledge to make these kinds of decisions.”

  Supporters of @wvfree and @ACLU_wv asked to chant quietly b/c House is still in session. #wvlegis A video posted by Ashton Marra (@ashtonmarra) on Jan 22, 2015 at 9:15am PST

Jennifer Meinig with the West Virginia American Civil Liberties Union says this year’s version of the bill is much more extreme than the version approved by lawmakers last year, and is still unconstitutional.

“Every court in the country that’s addressed this issue has found bans like this to be unconstitutional and this bill is no different,” she said.

The bill also creates a litigation fund, essentially a pool of money for the attorney general’s office to help pay for legal proceedings that may come if the bill is passed and enacted.

The bill has been sent to the House Health and Human Resources Committee for consideration. A similar piece of legislation was introduced in the Senate earlier this week.