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W.Va. lawmakers override veto of bill banning medically proven method of abortion

The West Virginia Legislature on Thursday overrode Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin's (D) veto of a bill (SB 10) that would ban a medically proven method of abortion, the Charleston Gazette-Mail reports (Eyre, Charleston Gazette-Mail, 3/10).

The override required a simple majority vote in both chambers of the state Legislature (Mattise, AP/Sacramento Bee, 3/10). The vote in the state House was 85-15 and the vote in the state Senate was 25-9.

The law is scheduled to take effect in May (Charleston Gazette-Mail, 3/10).

Bill details

Under the bill, physicians who perform the procedure could lose their medical licenses. The bill would exempt physicians from punishment if they perform the procedure in the case of a medical emergency.

According to Kelly Baden, director of state advocacy for the Center for Reproductive Rights, bans on this method are unconstitutional because they impede private medical decisions. Baden in a prior letter to West Virginia lawmakers noted, "Laws like these are an attack on women's health, personal autonomy, and the doctor-patient relationship, and they have the potential to force physicians to subject women seeking safe and legal abortion services ... to additional invasive and unnecessary procedures."

Veto details

Tomblin vetoed the legislation over concerns that it would be found unconstitutional. This marks the third consecutive year that Tomblin has vetoed antiabortion-rights legislation over such concerns.

In his veto message, Tomblin wrote, "I am advised that this bill is overbroad and unduly burdens a woman's fundamental constitutional right to privacy" (Women's Health Policy Report, 3/10).

Comments

According to the Gazette-Mail, physicians and medical groups have voiced objections to the bill.

State Sen. Corey Palumbo (D), who opposed the override, said, "We're saying now that the safest procedure cannot be used." He added, "We're requiring [physicians] to do the more dangerous, the more difficult and, sometimes, impossible procedure."

Separately, state Sen. Ron Stollings (D), a physician who opposed the measure, said the legislation is "going to be considered unconstitutional." According to the Gazette-Mail, similar bans have been blocked by courts in Kansas and Oklahoma (Charleston Gazette-Mail, 3/10).