Liz McCormick Published

Pain Capable Unborn Child Protection Act is Discussed in the House


State lawmakers are again pushing the Pain Capable Unborn Child Protection Act in West Virginia, despite last year’s veto.

The House Health and Human Resources Committee began discussing House Bill 2568 Thursday.  Witnesses speaking to the committee disagreed on whether a fetus can or cannot feel pain at the 20 week gestation mark. 

Dr. Mitzi Payne, a Pediatric Neurologist at Marshall University says they can’t.

“Because when we’re looking at what neuron connects to another in our pathological specimens, it’s not telling us how they’re functioning, it’s just if they’re there or not, and just because a neuron might be connecting to another neuron in the subcortical plate that an adult might be responsive we don’t know that in the fetus. Just because it’s there, physically there, doesn’t mean one part is talking to the other,” said Payne.

Jennifer Popik, an attorney and a representative with the National Right to Life says they can.

“We’re very cognizant that there is some dispute in the medical community about this. And the courts tell us, you know, we don’t need to be 100%, but there just needs to be a body of evidence that you all find. And we can definitively, you know, we can show with an overwhelming, a more overwhelming body of evidence that at 20 weeks, we can more safely say that,” Popik said.

During a House of Delegates public hearing Thursday, opponents called the proposal likely unconstitutional and intrusive into doctor-patient relationships.

Proponents cited moral and religious grounds.

The Democratic-run Legislature passed a similar proposal overwhelmingly last year. But Governor Tomblin vetoed the legislation over constitutionality concerns.

Tomblin says he’d veto the bill again if it’s the same. The legislature, now in the hands of Republicans, need a simple majority to overturn his veto.