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West Virginia Legislature overrides veto of Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act

by | Mar 6, 2015

By Dave Andrusko

WestVirginiaoverridereAnd then there were eleven.

Eleven states that recognize they “have a compelling interest in protecting the lives of unborn children who are capable of feeling pain from abortion,” in the words of Mary Spaulding Balch, JD, NRLC director of State Legislation.

The West Virginia Senate today expressed its overwhelming support for the Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act by voting 27-5 to override

Governor Earl Ray Tomblin’s veto. The decisive action comes two days after the House of Delegates voted to override, 77-16.

Illustrating just how unusual was the action that took place this week, it is the first veto override in West Virginia since 1987.

“We commend the members of the legislature who supported this bill for their courage and compassion by adding their voices in favor of protecting pain-capable unborn children who are unable to speak for themselves,” Balch told NRL News Today.

“We also condemn Governor Tomblin for his cowardice and indifference toward the innocent, unborn child who is capable of great suffering from the violence of abortion.”

The West Virginia Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act would generally protect the lives of pain-capable unborn children from being killed by abortion. The bill would protect unborn children from 20 weeks fetal age, based on legislative findings that there is compelling evidence that an unborn child by that point (if not earlier) is capable of experiencing excruciating pain during the process of dismemberment or other abortion procedures.

Tomblin vetoed essentially the same bill in consecutive sessions. Each time he prefaced his remarks on with assurances about his pro-life views. This time he began his veto message with ‘I believe there is no greater gift of love than the gift of life” only to issue a thumbs-down verdict on ‘constitutional grounds.”

Tomlin was alluding to a 2013 Arizona law which was struck down by an appeals court. However National Right to Life has explained why and how West Virginia’s Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act differs from Arizona’s ‘Mother’s Health and Safety Act.”

The latter was based on the legislature’s stated interest of protecting the health and safety of the woman. In passing The Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act, the West Virginia legislature stated that its compelling interest is in protecting the life of the pain-capable unborn child, basing that on abundant scientific evidence demonstrating that the unborn child at that point in development is capable of feeling pain.

Such scientific evidence wasn’t available in 1973 when the High Court handed down Roe v. Wade and its companion case, Doe v. Bolton.

Another encouraging piece of news came earlier from West Virginia Attorney General Patrick Morrisey who pledged to defend the law in court. He said

It is long-past time that limits are placed on abortions in West Virginia. Currently West Virginia law does not limit how late an abortion can occur. While no one can predict with certainty how a court will rule, I believe that there are strong, good-faith arguments that this legislation is constitutional and should be upheld by the courts. If the Legislature overrides this veto and the law is challenged, I will defend it in court.

The other ten states which have passed a pain-capable unborn child protection act are Alabama, Arkansas, Georgia, Idaho, Kansas, Louisiana, Nebraska, North Dakota, Oklahoma, and Texas.

Categories: Legislation