West Virginia Advances Bill To Ban Abortions After 15 Weeks

The West Virginia House of Delegates advanced a bill on Tuesday that would ban abortion after 15 weeks of pregnancy, and is sending it to the state Senate for approval.

The bill passed 81-18 in the Republican-controlled chamber, and some lawmakers said they wished the ban was even more restrictive.

“If it was up to me, we would ban it outright,” Republican Delegate Adam Burkhammer said during a hearing.

The bill’s lead sponsor, Republican Delegate Ruth Rowan, repeated myths about the state of a fetus at 15 weeks of pregnancy, saying: “The baby can feel pain. The baby can feel that it’s being torn apart and aborted.”

However, extensive research shows that a fetus does not have the capacity to feel pain until 24 weeks into term. That’s also around when a fetus is considered to be potentially viable outside the womb.

Lawmakers also struck down a proposed amendment to the bill that would make exceptions for patients who become pregnant as a result of rape or incest ― something Republicans in many states have been unwilling to consider.

Delegate Danielle Walker, a Democrat, delivered one of the most powerful oppositions to the bill. She said she is a rape and domestic violence survivor, as well as an abortion patient.

“I shouldn’t have to keep getting up to give these speeches,” she said. “Every year, time and time again, this state legislature decides to spend our time and resources putting more and more restrictions on abortion care ― a common, normal medical procedure that one in four who identify as a woman, and for those who don’t, a patient, will access in their lifetime.”

Fifteen weeks is “not too long after most people are finding out that they are pregnant, and that’s assuming that they have regular periods,” she said. She added that health care access, support systems and other factors vary by patient, meaning that not all patients would be able to seek an abortion within the time frame the bill proposes.

The bill “tries to paint abortion and the people who access it with a broad brush and make this issue black and white, when it is simply not, and it will never be,” Walker said.

A local anti-abortion group recently targeted Walker, the only Black woman in the West Virginia legislature, with a KKK-themed graphic accusing her of supporting “the killing of children who look like you.”

She spoke to HuffPost about the ordeal last week, saying none of her white colleagues who oppose abortion restrictions have received such a message. Walker said the group had not apologized to her.

“This should not be tolerated anywhere. I am in no association and no ally to any white supremacist group,” she said. “To send this to the only Black woman elected in both House and Senate in the state of West Virginia, it was definitely a target.”

West Virginia’s proposed 15-week ban is similar to a Mississippi law currently under review by the U.S. Supreme Court. The court is expected to rule later this year on the constitutionality of any bans on abortion before a fetus is viable outside the womb.

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