West Virginia governor signs bill severely limiting abortion access
West Virginia Gov. Jim Justice (R) signed an abortion ban into law on Friday that will only permit the procedure in cases of rape, incest or medical emergencies.
Justice said in a tweet announcing his signature that the legislation is a “bill that protects life.”
“I said from the beginning that if WV legislators brought me a bill that protected life and included reasonable and logical exceptions I would sign it, and that’s what I did today,” he said.
Both chambers of the state’s legislature approved the ban on Tuesday, with the state Senate passing it 22-7 and the state House passing it 77-17. With Justice’s signature, the law goes into effect immediately while its criminal penalties will go into effect in 90 days.
The law bans abortion entirely unless the patient is a victim of rape or incest, has informed a law enforcement agency and receives the procedure no later than the eighth week of pregnancy. Minors in either of those circumstances can receive an abortion up to 14 weeks of pregnancy if they report it to law enforcement and receive treatment from a licensed professional or hospital.
Abortions are also allowed for “medical emergencies” and if the fetus is not medically viable.
Licensed providers who are found to have illegally performed an abortion are not subject to imprisonment but could lose their medical license. If anyone who is not licensed to perform an abortion, such as nurses, is found to have done so, they could face felony charges and three to 10 years in prison, starting in 90 days.
West Virginia is the second state to sign into law an abortion ban following the Supreme Court’s June ruling overturning Roe v. Wade, which protected abortion rights nationally. Indiana Gov. Eric Holcomb (R) last month signed into law a ban that went into effect Thursday.
More than a dozen states had “trigger bans” go into effect once Roe was overturned that severely restricted abortion access.
A judge had previously blocked West Virginia’s 150-year-old abortion ban in a preliminary injunction in July, so state lawmakers were seeking to supersede that with the legislation that went into effect Friday.