CHARLESTON — The West Virginia House of Delegates on Wednesday passed a near-total ban on abortion in West Virginia after a contentious debate on the floor, a protest outside the House chamber and a public hearing that brought together more than 100 supporters and opponents.
The House passed House Bill 302, clarifying West Virginia’s abortion laws, in a 69-23 vote Wednesday afternoon with 11 members absent after Governor Jim Justice added the about updates to the abortion law at the proclamation of the special session on Monday.
HB 302 would prohibit all abortions from fertilization except for medical emergencies, of a medically non-viable fetus, and in pregnancy when a fetus develops outside the uterus.
A narrow majority approved an amendment to HB 302 that also added limited abortion exceptions for sexual assault and incest. Of the. John Hardy, R-Berkeley, moved the amendment, which passed 46 to 43 with 11 members absent. According to the vote total, 18 Democrats crossed the aisle, giving 28 of the 78 Republican caucus members the votes needed for the amendment to pass.
Hardy’s amendment would allow abortion to occur in cases of sexual assault or incest as long as the pregnancy occurs no later than 14 weeks gestation. The amendment also requires that a report be made to a qualified law enforcement officer before an abortion is performed.
“The reason I care about this is that we give women the opportunity,” said Hardy. “I’m as pro-life as anyone here, but I believe we need to provide those options to our mothers, sisters, daughters and nieces. There has to be some sort of option if someone is raped and sexually assaulted.
The Hardy Amendment debate has divided House Republican caucus members, with some rising to voice support for Hardy’s position while others gave impassioned speeches explaining why they think he is wrong. terminating a pregnancy.
“We are a number here who have little girls or granddaughters and I think of these girls”, Del said. John Kelly, R-Wood, seconding the amendment. “I don’t believe in abortion. Really not, but I believe in taking care of my children, my grandchildren. I love them and I’m not going to put them through this.
“I have to be for that exception, because I don’t like innocent people being sent out with no options available,” Del said. Mark Zatezalo, R-Hancock. “Innocent people deserve options like everyone else.”
“If you institute an exception right now, you will continue to face this again and again and again and again,” Del said. Brandon Steele, R-Raleigh, urging members to vote against the Hardy Amendment. “I value life. I value the life of every unborn child, even if it has been forged and provoked into travesty and heartbreak such as sexual assault. It is a phoenix rising from the ashes.
Members of the Democratic House proposed several amendments to HB 302, all of which were unsuccessful. One of these amendments provided a broad exception for cases of rape and incest.
“I want you to think about the girls in your life, the women in your life, and I want you to think about the other kids in West Virginia,” Del said. Lisa Zukoff, D-Marshall, who co-sponsored the failed amendment. “In this case, if a woman decides not to have her rapist’s child, if a girl and her family feel that it is not in her and her doctor’s best interests to have the rapist’s child, she should have the choice to do so.”
“Do you want to side with child rape victims or child rapists? think about it”, said House Minority Whip Shawn Fluharty, D-Ohio. “The fact that we even have to decide that is appalling.”
Earlier Wednesday, 90 people registered to speak at a public hearing regarding HB 302. Opponents of the bill outnumbered supporters by nearly two-thirds at the public hearing, speakers n entitled to only 45 seconds to argue for or against the bill.
The condensed time limit caused some speakers to continue speaking beyond the time limit, causing the microphone to cut out and the house Sergeant-at-Arms to escort speakers away from the podium, including Katie Quinonez, Director executive of the Women’s Health Center of West Virginia – the state’s only abortion clinic based in Charleston.
“This ban has nothing to do with life. It has nothing to do with health. It has nothing to do with family. It’s a matter of control.” Quinonez said. “This abortion ban is fundamentally a decision deeply rooted in sexism and racism and the role that women and people who can become pregnant play in our society…it will have a huge impact on all aspects to their lives, health and well-being, and this will have particularly significant effects on pregnant women in marginalized communities…”
Karen Cross, political director of National Right to Life, spoke about having an abortion before her senior year of high school. Three months later, she was pregnant again with her daughter, but she decided to maintain the pregnancy.
“I was in the same circumstances; Nothing has changed. The only thing that has changed is my determination to give him life. She is now the mother of my grandson and my pride and joy,” says Cross. “We pro-lifers are the real feminists here. We believe in women. We believe in women so much – that women are capable, that women are so strong and amazing – that we don’t have to kill our children to succeed in life.
HB 302 was sent to the State Senate, where a majority of senators decided not to send the bill to committee and it received first reading. The bill will go through second reading and amendment today.