West Virginia Legislature Casts Aside Women’s Health and Rights, Overrides Governor’s Veto to Enact Abortion Ban

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(PRESS RELEASE) Just days after West Virginia Governor Earl Ray Tomblin vetoed a cruel and unconstitutional abortion ban at 20 weeks of pregnancy, both houses in the state legislature have voted to override the veto and enact HB 2568 into law. Today’s vote is the first time the West Virginia legislature has overridden a governor’s veto in nearly 30 years.

HB 2568—which allows abortion services after 20 weeks only in limited circumstances of medical emergencies and non-viable pregnancies, without any exception for survivors of rape or incest—is scheduled to take effect on May 26, 2015.  The very few West Virginia women who may need to seek abortion services after 20 weeks already face extreme barriers to care, as there are only two clinics providing abortion services in the entire state.

This is the second time in less than a year that the West Virginia legislature has passed this unconstitutional abortion ban—and the second time the Governor has vetoed such a measure, both times citing concerns over the constitutionality of the law and the negative impact on women’s health and safety.

Said Nancy Northup, president and CEO of the Center for Reproductive Rights: 

"Governor Tomblin was right to veto this callous, cruel, and unconstitutional attack on health care for women facing complicated and sometimes dangerous situations in their lives and pregnancies.

"With this action today, the politicians behind this law have revealed how far they are willing to go to advance their ideological agenda at the expense of women's rights, lives, and safety. They should be ashamed."

The U.S. Supreme Court has consistently held—first in Roe v. Wade and again in Planned Parenthood v. Casey—that states cannot ban abortion prior to viability. Last year, the Supreme Court refused to review a decision permanently blocking Arizona’s ban on abortion at 20 weeks of pregnancy, and courts in Idaho and Georgia have also blocked similar pre-viability bans.

Bans on abortion at 20 weeks are as dangerous as they are unconstitutional, coming at a point at which a woman is just receiving the results of critical tests to determine the health of her pregnancy—and potentially the presence of severe and possibly life-threatening complications.

Harmful and unconstitutional restrictions like these further underscore the need for the federal Women's Health Protection Act (S. 217/HR. 448)—a bill that would prohibit states like West Virginia from imposing unconstitutional restrictions on reproductive health care providers that apply to no similar medical care, interfere with women’s personal decision making, and block access to safe and legal abortion services.