Sending a message of resistance to abortion appears to be a strong current in the West Virginia House, which made a bill ensuring medical care for babies who survive attempted abortions one of its first priorities in 2020.
The Born-Alive Abortion Survivors Protection Act, House Bill 4007, requires doctors who do abortions to do their best to protect the life of a newborn if he/she is breathing or has a heartbeat. It includes penalties, including possible revocation of a physician’s medical license, if the required medical attention is not provided.
According to the Weirton Daily Times, several Democratic House members called the act unnecessary and an effort to push conservative voter turnout for pro-life candidates and an “imaginary solution to an imaginary problem,” in the words of Delegate Barbara Fleischauer, D-Monongalia.
One abortion provider is active in the state, the Women’s Health Center in Charleston, and it does not perform abortions after 16 weeks. State law already prohibits abortions after 20 weeks. Other state laws make fetal homicide a crime, as does a federal law passed by Congress in 2002.
“The very scenario that we are trying to litigate here…I’m telling you this is not possible,” said Delegate Sammie Brown, D-Jefferson. “I’m all for policy that will protect mothers, that will protect infants and that will protect life, but this simply isn’t it.”
House Republicans said the law was needed to strengthen existing anti-abortion laws and to send a signal nationwide to states with more liberal abortion laws.
“The opponents of this bill will tell you we don’t need this law in West Virginia, but we need to send a strong signal to the rest of the country,” said Delegate Tom Bibby, R-Berkeley. “We have to show the rest of the world that we in West Virginia want to stand for pro-life.”