Calling a ban on abortion after 20 weeks of pregnancy unconstitutional, Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin vetoed a bill that would have made it a crime to carry out such a procedure in West Virginia. Tomblin said the bill was a "detriment" to women's health and safety.
The bill "unduly restricts the physician-patient relationship," Tomblin said in a statement about his veto. "All patients, particularly expectant mothers, require the best, most unfettered medical judgment and advice from their physicians regarding treatment options."
The governor also cited his belief that "there is no greater gift of love than the gift of life." But he said he vetoed the measure, HB 4588, after receiving advice about its legality and potential impact.
As The Charleston Gazette reports, "Arizona was among several states to pass similar laws, but a federal appeals court struck down the Arizona law last year, and the U.S. Supreme Court refused in January to hear the state's appeal."
The West Virginia bill was approved by wide margins in the state legislature on March 8. It would have allowed abortion after 20 weeks' gestation only under a medial emergency, particularly in cases where a physician wouldn't have enough time to determine the length of the pregnancy.
"Every pregnancy is different, and we can't know all of the circumstances a woman is facing," Sara Bird, president of the American Civil Liberties Union of West Virginia, said of the bill after Tomblin's veto Friday. "A woman who is planning for a child but develops complications doesn't need politicians interfering with her decision, nor does any other woman."
An early version of the measure would have made performing an abortion past 20 weeks a felony with a mandatory prison sentence of at least one year. The final version changed the crime to a misdemeanor, with a fine of up to $4,000.