Governor Vetos Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act; Legislature Overturns It — Law Will Go Into Effect In W. Va. In June

An anti-abortion bill known as the Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act will go into effect this summer in West Virginia, after a veto by the state’s governor was overturned. Though Governor Earl Ray Tomblin says he is pro-life, he also says that he thinks this particular legislation could be overturned as unconstitutional once challenged, and that he’d rather work to develop legislation that could “pass constitutional muster.” The state’s legislature disagreed, however, and overturned his veto.

The bill would prevent abortions after the time at which the fetus is considered capable of feeling pain. While this is often described as 20 weeks of gestation, including in most descriptions of this legislation, pro-life groups and doctors have made claims for a fetus being able to feel pain as early as nine weeks.

While the Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act allows for exceptions in the case of a medical emergency, this is defined only as a nonviable fetus or a risk to the mother of death or “substantial and irreversible” physical impairment. It specifically disallows as medical emergencies cases in which the patient indicates that she would cause harm or death to herself.

The ACLU of West Virginia warned that the legislation would be unlikely to pass constitutional challenges, saying the following.

“Laws banning abortion before viability, like House Bill 2568, are unconstitutional. The Supreme Court’s decisions in Roe v Wade and subsequent litigation have held that a state may not ban abortion before viability, and a state may ban abortion after viability only if there are exceptions to protect the woman’s health and life.”

Governor Tomblin concurred, vetoed the bill, and released this statement.

“As reflected in my voting record during my time in the Legislature, I believe there is no greater gift of love than the gift of life. As governor, I must take into consideration a number of factors when reviewing legislation, including its constitutionality. At the start of the regular session, I urged members of the Legislature to consider a compromise that would help us establish legislation that would pass constitutional muster. Having received a substantially similar bill to the one vetoed last year on constitutional grounds, I must veto House Bill 2568.”

According to the Metro News, however, on Friday, the State Senate voted again, and overturned the veto. Of course, we have multiple cases that show lawmakers are not as good as doctors at understanding the medical aspects of an abortion.

The Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act will go into effect in 90 days if there are no further challenges to prevent it.

[Photo by: Alex Wong/Getty Images]