The speaker of the West Virginia House of Delegates said Friday he plans to contact members next week to call them back Sept. 12 for a special session likely to discuss an ongoing abortion bill. The call drew a terse response from the state Senate president, who said it took him by surprise.
Speaker Roger Hanshaw, a Clay County Republican, said the return of lawmakers would coincide with regularly scheduled interim committee meetings.
Senate President Craig Blair, a Berkeley County Republican, said that when he learned about Hanshaw’s statement, “to say I was shocked is an understatement.
“Communication is vital to ensuring government works in an efficient and productive manner,” Blair said. “While there has been communication on modifications to House Bill 203 that would be acceptable to both chambers, to date no agreement has been reached.”
The House, which earlier passed its version of an abortion bill, refused to concur with Senate amendments. Instead, delegates asked for a conference committee to iron out differences.
The bill, which some lawmakers complained was not vetted by any Senate committees, would ban abortions except in case of rape or incest. The Senate approved an amendment sponsored by a physician, Kanawha County Republican Tom Takubo, that would remove criminal penalties of three to 10 years upon conviction for any medical provider who performs an abortion.
A statement issued by the House on Friday said conference committee members must be announced during a House session. Because it had already adjourned, the Senate has yet to receive the House’s request for the conference committee.
Blair said that while he supports passing abortion legislation, “I will not cause further chaos and disruption to the process, or burden our taxpayers with unnecessary expenses, by calling Senators back into session without a concrete plan for producing a bill that has the votes to pass both chambers.”
Abortions remain legal in West Virginia after a judge blocked enforcement of the state’s 150-year-old abortion ban in July.